Thursday, December 1, 2022

"The Christmas Hirelings" by M. E. Braddon

This sweet little novella is like the epitome of Victorian Christmas fiction: filled with the knowledge that life can be fleeting and people can be cruel... but they don't need to be.

An aging aristocrat, his good friend, and his niece are all set to spend a very boring Christmas together at the aristocrat's country manor.  Then his friend suggests they "hire" some children to liven up their festivities, and after some consideration, they decide to do exactly this.  The friend departs for a while and returns with three siblings who are genteel, enthusiastic, and intelligent, and who fill the manor house with all the joy and brightness it was missing.

The smallest child is precocious in both intellect and attitude, and she captures the aristocrat's attention and eventually claims his heart (in a grandfatherly sort of way, never fear)... and then calamity strikes.  And, because this is Victorian literature, you can never be too sure that everything will turn out fine because some Victorian authors will just randomly kill off children just to make you cry, so I finished the last couple chapters of this novella with a lot of trepidation.  But I liked it a lot, by the very end.

Particularly Good Bits:

"Christmas can hardly be made too much of where there are children in question."

"They are small, but they are people."

Each of the children discovered a glittering new coin, and in Moppet's portion there were two sixpences.  The stout and serious butler helping the pudding on the carving-table by the light of a single candle was suspected of treasonable practices.

"People who are unhappy don't like anything.  Unhappiness is disliking."

"My life was barren, but it was peaceful.  What more did I want?"

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G.  Clean and innocent and sweet.


I read this as part of the #DickensDecember2022 group challenge on Instagram, and it's also my first book read for the Literary Christmas Reading Challenge this year.  It's also my sixth book read for my fourth Classics Club list AND my 56th book read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2022.  Whew!

3 comments:

  1. Ah... seems to be a charming Christmas read. Will save this for next year!
    By the way, I just giggled at "some authors will just randomly kill children just to make you cry" - fortunately there's no one else in my office just now. :))

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    Replies
    1. Fanda, I liked it so well, I ended up ordering a paperback book that includes it because I want to have it on my shelf, not just a free e-book version on my Kindle app.

      Victorian authors are NOT to be trusted with my emotions! ::glares at them::

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    2. Thanks to you, I've bought the ebook, read it immediately, and loved it! ❤

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