on 16 October 2012
A family Christmas observed with brilliant clarity. Grieving Mary, betrayed Barbara, obnoxious Seb and offspring are immediately recognisable - and who doesn't know a Mrs Marsh? A snapshot of inter-related lives, full of clever insights and genuinely funny with Mrs Marsh's thoughts and behaviour providing the best laughs.
As Mary sits by the window watching the birds, her mind drifts, as it always does. Her only son, Robin, has died, the only person in her life that matters. She has had a breakdown and moved in with her mother. Mrs Marsh, her mother, is a controlling woman, but she loves her daughter. Although she cannot tell her she loves her because after all that may upset her.
Mrs Marsh thinks Mary needs to move on, she had to move on after her husband died. She allows a few tears to fall every morning in his memory, but life goes on, and Mary must do the same. Mrs Marsh has planned a big Christmas holiday with the entire family coming. Evelyn the lady across the street will help. All plans are underway.
Meanwhile, Barbara, Mrs Marsh's other daughter, is giving a Christmas party for her husband's Seb's professorial colleagues. In the midst of this party she discovers a secret. Her son, Sam, knows all about this secret, her daughter, Kate has no idea. The next day everyone piles into the car to go to Mrs Marsh's home for Christmas.
The highlight of the Christmas holiday if there is one, is one of Mrs. Marsh's sayings when things go wrong, ''Forgive us our Christmases as we forgive those who have Christmassed against us.''
Too much drink and food, no one really speaks their thoughts but Mary. Mary wants to be left alone, she wants to join her son, Robin. So much left unsaid, and we wonder how all these people grieving in their own way will ever resolve their issues.
This is a remarkable novel, short but so full of satire and irony. The author, Alice Thomas Ellis, is one of those authors who gives so much, every novel is full of wisdom and each word is exactly placed. A treasure to be sure.
Highly Recommended. prisrob 01-07-16
on 4 December 2013
Her writing is very descriptive, wonderful use of words, paints a picture of English gentry life, so we can visualize the characters and we can imagine we are one of the guests...knowing each family member and invited guests. Yes, there are few redeeming features of the characters, but they are differentiated and play their role in the story and there is British humor, quite amusing. Brings out life's issues...meaning of life, marriage, parent-child interactions, values, politics, religion, and handling death...one's own and loved ones.