Christmas Pudding & Pigeon Pie / Nancy Mitford
New York: Popular Library, 1976, c1932.
I read this book for obvious seasonal reasons -- but having finished it I most likely won't bother with the second title in this compilation edition with the ghastly 70s cover. Reviews say that these two novels are early Mitford, and weaker than her later work, and of the two Christmas Pudding is better.
That's no great recommendation, however.
Christmas Pudding tells the tale of a rich and ennui ridden family, the Bobbins: horsey Lady Bobbin, son Bobby and daughter Philadelphia. Christmas is really incidental in this book, an excuse for the extended family to gather at the ancestral home and create some amusing set pieces. There is crossed love, gambling debts, impersonations, odd children, a tedious ball, and lots of hunting.
There is also the fact that Lady Bobbin and her cousin Lord Leamington Spa are described as loving Christmas as a "merrie olde England" kind of holiday, and striving mightily to make it into that kind of celebration in the face of the cynical, ironic younger members of the family who are so much bright young things they can't possibly stomach sentimental holidays.
It's very much a novel of the upper classes, from the vantage point of tutor Paul Fotheringay aka Fisher, Bobby's putative tutor over the holidays (whom a previous reader helpfully noted in the margins was strikingly similar to Paul Pennyfeather from Waugh...). The misunderstanding and misapprehensions between classes are played for humour, and there are plenty of dithery women who are helplessly devoted to their male counterpoints, deserved or not.
I found it slightly amusing, vaguely interesting, but overall quite pedestrian. The names were the best part of it -- from Philadelphia and Bobby Bobbin to Lord Leamington Spa to Squibby Almanack, the characters' names and their introduction in a preface was the best part of the tale.
Perhaps I'll try again with one of Mitford more recognizably popular books and see if it takes a little better than this one did.
What is your favourite Christmas read?