This Christmas, I'm reading the Penguin Christmas Classics. Just like last year, I'll use a special rating system to give you an even better idea what this story is about and if it's for you.
CHRISTMAS FEELS: ★★★/5
ROMANCE FEELS: ★★★/5
This Christmas book by Anthony Trollope exists of several short stories; the main one being Christmas at Thompson Hall. Though all five stories are slightly different, they are all in a very similar style and very distinctively by the same author. To review the book, I'll discuss each short story briefly.
Christmas at Thompson Hall
This is the main story of the collection and also by far the most original and funniest one. Though not very closely related to Christmas, it tells the journey of a married couple from their way to the south of France to their relatives in England to spend the holiday. They stay over in a hotel in Paris and what ensues is a collection of events that I can only imagine inspired Faulty Towers in a great deal.
This short story is quintessentially British and the very "proper" way the upper-class characters try to respond to the worst misunderstandings would make anyone laugh. It is a very Dickensian story, as I actually think all of them are, connected by coincidences and plots driven by misunderstandings. Though the ending is fairly predictable, it added to the fun to know more than the characters do and to anticipate all the future misunderstandings they will endure.
Christmas Day at Kirkby Cottage
This might be my favourite story of the collection. A British family have a young neighbour staying with them and something grows between him and the eldest daughter. As expected, no one says anything about it and the two quarrel quite a bit while also trying to hide their feelings.
I thought this story was very Christmas. Not only are there great descriptions of Christmas decorations in it, the idea of people confessing their true feelings during Christmas always makes me a little gushy. I enjoy the fact that the romance and the atmosphere of the holiday were so beautifully interwoven by Trollope's writing and I really enjoyed every single character in this short story.
The Mistletoe Bough
The Mistletoe Bough is very similar to Christmas Day at Kirkby Cottage. We encounter a similar family and again see them through Christmas with the necessary romantic complications. The story revolves around the daughter and the impending Christmas visit of her former fiancé. They haven't seen each other since the engagement ended and are now reunited in the family home.
Again, there are mixed feelings and misunderstandings between characters. This story was really very Christmas like and I enjoyed reading the descriptions of an English Victorian mansion during Christmas. However, the characters weren't as memorable as those in the previous two stories and the ending wasn't really that surprising at all.
The Two Generals
This short story was my absolute favourite. Maybe it's because I was getting a bit tired of British people and their weird coincidences, or maybe it was just because it's an amazing story. The Two Generals takes place in Kentucky during the American civil war. Two brothers join the army; one on the Northern side and one on the Southern side. As you can expect, this causes a lot of tension in this household. Every Christmas, the brothers are home with their father and confronted about their differences. Add to that a woman they both love, and it's not exactly a merry Christmas each year.
This story has some amazing storytelling and Trollope is really able to take a big historical event and make it more personal to the readers. You learn about history, while at the same time encountering my favourite characters from this collection of short stories. It didn't feel very Christmas like, probably because of the war situation, but the end does fill your heart and there's a great lesson about forgiveness and family in there.
Not If I Know It
Not If I Know It is the shortest story of the collection and also the one that has least impressed me. It's about a British family that comes together for Christmas (I know, again) and a fight between two brothers-in-law whom are arguing about money - or at least one of them thinks they are, the other one thinks they're fighting for another reason. Thus story was only twenty pages long and again based on a misunderstanding that could have been fixed quite easily. Though it takes place on Christmas, the whole arguing about money put me straight out of the Christmas atmosphere. The ending is once again happy, but I really didn't relate to any character to be bothered about that. Compared to the other short stories, this one is definitely the one I'll forget.