"Christmas at Thompson Hall" and "The Christmas List"

Christmas at Thompson Hall & Other Christmas Stories by Anthony Trollope

This little book contains five of Anthony Trollope's Christmas stories. I enjoyed the lack of sugary sweetness usually found in Christmas stories and I find Trollope's Victorian language lovely.

The first is Christmas at Thompson Hall, a story about a husband and wife trying (well she's trying, he's fighting it) to get from France to England to join their family for Christmas.

The second is Christmas Day at Kirkby Cottage, about a young couple who are meant to be together but have trouble communicating their feelings for each other.

The third story is The Mistletoe Bough, about a young man and woman who meet again two years after her father told the young man she was too young to be thinking about marriage.

The fourth is The Two Generals in which brothers fight on opposite sides in the American Civil War. It was refreshing to read a Christmas story not focused on  a romantic relationship.

The final story is Not If I Know It, about brothers-in-law whose relationship is threatened by a few hastily spoken words.

I recommend this book to anyone looking for something seasonal and easy to read in the busy month of December. It would also make a very nice Christmas gift for your favourite reader, even if your favourite reader is you!

The Christmas List by Richard Paul Evans

This was not what I expected at all. When you talk about a "list" this time of year it usually means a list of things someone wants for Christmas but here it's a list of people the main character, James, has hurt in his work as a land development tycoon and now wants to help. This change of outlook comes after he reads his own obituary and the comments attached to it. Another man with the same name had died and somehow the reporters got the two men mixed up and reported the demise of the wrong James Kier. The eye-opening part was the glee with which people read of his death and rejoiced that the world was better off without him.

This all leads him to ask his secretary to list the people who have suffered the most from his heartless business practices and he begins his quest to make things right. Of course most of those people don't want anything to do with him so it's not as easy as he hoped it would be. He may have had an Ebenezer Scrooge-type change of heart, but some of the damage he's done in both his business and his private life cannot be undone. It is a Christmas story though so in the end things turn out as well as they can, all things considered, and some of those "things" are pretty serious.

I found the story refreshing because it was different and it wasn't a sappy perfect ending. It's written in short chapters making it easy to read in five minute segments, which is sometimes all you get this time of year. I did have a couple of free hours one evening and was able to finish it quickly. All in all it was a nice read, positive and inspiring, perfect for light, but not fluffy, holiday reading.


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