I don’t think I have put a book review as a post on Christmas Day before, I am sure you are all having too much of a lovely time with your family, or just filled with chocolates and the like, to be reading the blog. I hope I will be. However there didn’t seem a more ideal day to discuss Happy Christmas by Daphne Du Maurier, a rather rare short story/novella that couldn’t be more ideal for today and so I have done some scheduling, not sledging, scheduling.
The Lawrence house is busy and bustling trying to get itself organised, well the staff are, in time for Christmas and a day of festivities and feasting between the Lawrence family and their neighbours. Busy Mr Lawrence is watching all from the side lines while his wife fusses over what needs to be done (by the staff) and their children Bob and Marjorie (their names being one of the few things that dates this tale) squeal about what they want for Christmas. We all know the score. However after a phone call the mood changed when the local refugee charity, who Mrs Lawrence signed up to because she felt she should as everyone else was, call telling them that they have a Jewish couple in need of shelter. Worrying that this will inconvenience and possibly ruin Christmas they decide that they have no room other than above the garage building and so begrudgingly agree.
I won’t say more on the plot as the tale is only a very short 24 pages. I can talk about my reaction to it though. Initially I have to say I had a horrid feeling that this was a rather racist tale, especially after how put out the Lawrence’s are about the Jews coming to stay and a few rather antisemetic comments fly from her and her husbands mouths. However, that was a lazy initial reaction and one I was annoyed at myself for even thinking Daphne would deign to write. As I read on I realised that in a modern mirroring of the religious tale of Christmas, rather than the big jolly fat man with a beard, Du Maurier is actually pointing out that deep down many of us have forgotten just what on earth Christmas is actually about.
This isn’t a case of religious preaching or bashing the reader over the head and as someone who isn’t religious I think I would have spotted it if it was. It is just a tale that says Christmas isn’t all about having the latest most marvellous gifts, showing off to relations and neighbours (or indeed trying to outdo them), it is a time to think how lucky we are and remember it is a time of charity and giving, the latter not having to be on such a grand scale. As someone who had up until this point been mildly grumpy that I wouldn’t be getting an iPhone 5S for Christmas it gave me a short sharp slap round the face and I know that whatever happens on Christmas Day I will just be feeling thankful I am with people who love me and who I love… even if they probably want to play bloody charades!
Considering Happy Christmas is now sixty years old it is a short story that most of us in this modern world could do with reading to be given a reminder to look sharp, buck up and think on as to what Christmas is really all about. It is only short but it packs one very big punch. Well done, Daphne.
Oh and if you want an extra little magical tale, you can find out the way I ended up getting this copy of Happy Christmas here. Bookish fate. I hope you are all having a wonderful day.