I read Christmas at Thompson Hall & Other Christmas Stories, a collection of short stories by Anthony Trollope, for the Spirit of Christmas Reading Challenge. It's one of five Penguin Christmas Classics, and a beautiful little book with a gorgeous cover and quality printing and paper.
There are five stories in the collection, and I found them on the whole a bit uneven.
The first, "Christmas at Thompson Hall," was the best--a funny situation comedy, full of mistaken identities, and a general air that made it more like a Marx Brothers farce than a sentimental Christmas story. It was truly a comedy of manners and a nice bit of Trollope for the holidays.
The next, "Christmas Day at Kirby Cottage," was a yawner. It was all about the path of young love not running smoothly, primarily because the lovers (the vicar's daughter and a local newbie landowner) involved were intent on making a mess of things. I didn't get to know either of them enough to care whether they ended up together or why they even "loved" each other. Missed the mark for me.
"The Mistletoe Bough" had a similar theme but I liked it better than the Kirby Cottage run at young love. The story was livelier, more interesting, and I liked the characters this time! There was fun, there was dancing, and there was mistletoe. There was banter and decent dialogue. There was sugar and spice. It was nice.
"The Two Generals" was pretty odd. The story took place in Kentucky during the Civil War during the Christmases of 1860-1864, and involved two brothers vying for the same woman. The brothers, of course, ended up as Union and Confederate generals, and Trollope ended up both condemning slavery and sneering at the abolitionists who worked to end it. The story and characters seemed completely contrived to demonstrate the theme of forgiveness, but I found it a bit irritating. In a way, I felt that Trollope had no business trying to wring a sentimental story out of a nation's tragedy.
The final story in the set, "Not If I Know It," was little more than a sketch and lacked the focus and clarity of theme that a short story needs to work properly. I found it confusing and all three characters uninteresting. Not enough backstory to get their perspective. Could have used some polishing.
So, I'm glad I read this collection of short stories, and I can imagine I will reread at least a couple of the stories from time to time during Christmas Future, but I wouldn't think most people would really like the book unless they are either committed to the Classics or nuts about Trollope. I wonder if Trollope was simply out of his comfort zone with the short story format--I've only ever read his novels, and I wonder if he wrote many other short stories.