Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas At Fairacre by Miss Read

Christmas At Fairacre was a new find this year, thanks to Carrie. Until I received this book I'd never heard of Miss Read of the Fairacre books, even though they have been around for over fifty years.

Miss Read is the nom de plume of Dora Jessie Saint, a schoolteacher and English novelist born in in 1913. Miss Read penned more than forty books between 1956 and 1996, including twenty-one novels set in the fictional village of Fairacre. Christmas At Fairacre is, as you might guess, the compilation of three of these novels, all set during the Christmas season: Village Christmas (c)1966, The Christmas Mouse (c) 1973, and No Holly for Miss Quinn (c)1976.

In the Village Christmas, spinster sisters Margaret and Mary Waters and the rest of Fairacre must welcome some new neighbors, the Emery family. At first it seems that the Emery family will never fit into the close knit community -- they are too modern, too friendly, too different. But Margaret, Mary, and the rest of Fairacre find their hearts warming to the Emerys after some special and exciting events unfold on Christmas day. At 51 pages, this story is more a short story than a novel and could easily be read in one sitting.

The Christmas Mouse centers around Mrs. Berry, her widowed daughter Mary Fuller, and Mary's two young daughters. It is Christmas Eve and a visit from two very different Christmas mice make for a very special and unforgettable holiday. This story is a little longer at 128 pages, but an easy and enjoyable read.

No Holly for Miss Quinn opens as Miriam Quinn, a single working woman in her mid 30s, is planning to spend her Christmas holiday alone without any fuss or feast. Instead of making merry, Miriam plans to re-paint her sitting room. That is... until she receives a call from her older brother asking for her help. Up to this point Miriam has lived a very solitary existence and is prone to selfishness and prejudices, but she sets aside her wants and heads off to help her brother and his family in their time of need. During the course of her visit Miriam learns many lessons that change her life forever. At 121 pages, this story is also an easy and enjoyable read, and could be finished in one sitting, though it took a little longer for me.

In summary, I liked each of the stories in Christmas At Fairacre for different reasons, but the one story I thought I'd like the least -- No Holly for Miss Quinn -- I ended up liking the best. At first I thought Miss Quinn was a selfish hermit of a woman, but her experiences over Christmas melt her heart and clear away her prejudices making her a better woman. On a lesser note, Miss Read gives a nod to an every day hero in this story, the stay-at-home mother. Juggling the life of a working woman and a stay-at-home mother and wife this particularly touched me.

I liked Miss Read's writing. She paints vivid and delightful pictures and her characters and settings are warm and comfortable like old friends. The Christmas spirit is evident throughout the stories making this book a fun and modern holiday classic. I read that Jane Austen was a strong influence to Miss Read, which I can sort of see, but if asked I would be more likely to compare her writing with that of Jan Karon. If you enjoyed The Mitford Series you will enjoy The Fairacre Series.

On a scale of one to five, one being awful and five being excellent I would rate Christmas At Fairacre a four. It wasn't an all-time favorite, but I still really enjoyed the book and plan to read more of Miss Read's novels. This is a book that could be enjoyed borrowed or bought.


Brittanie said...

I have read No Holly for Miss Quinn and loved it. It is a great Christmas story. :)

Framed said...

Ihaven't read any books by Miss Read but certainly mean to give her a try.

Laura said...

I love, love, love Miss Read's books and over the last 25 years have read and bought all of them. For me, they are like "comfort food" and I tend to re-read them when life is too hectic or stressful.

However, I've found that many readers do not share my enthusiasm for her books - my grandmother, my mother, several reading friends have all politely told me her book (because each only attempted one) put them to sleep. Reading tastes do differ... .

Good review!

Beth F said...

I've just started on the Miss Read books -- well, I mean I just started buying the book. Will be reading them soon.

hopeinbrazil said...

I have had one of her books on my shelf for a few years. Guess it's time to dust it off. Sounds like a great relaxing read for the holidays.