Friday, December 11, 2015

Happy Christmas by Daphne DuMaurier

My library has a special section at the back of the second floor where they shelve their holiday books, not just Christmas or Hanukah or Kwanzai, but also Halloween, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, etc.

No one knows about it, so they had plenty of Christmas selections for me to choose from this holiday season.  I picked up a slim book, knowing that I wasn't interested in any chunksters this December, and discovered a gem of a story by one of my favorite story-tellers, Daphne DuMaurier.

Happy Christmas was written in 1940 and involves the Lawrences, a gentry nuclear family ready to enjoy their Christmas Eve, opening presents, imbibing in good food and drink, insulated from the ravages of war...well, as much as any English family could be insulated from WWII in 1940.

And then the phone rings.

It seems that there is a family of refugees who need temporary lodging and it is this family's turn, finally, to provide food and lodging for a family displaced by Hitler.  It turns out that the family is simply a Jewish couple. Our nice English family is dismayed--the parents feel their Christmas will be disrupted and it's clear they're prejudiced against the Jews, but they agree to let them stay in room over the garage.  It's not much but it's warm and dry.

In the morning, it is discovered that the couple departed for the hospital shortly after the wife gave birth in the wee small hours.

Happy Christmas is a beautifully rendered cautionary tale about how easy it is to lose sight of the meaning of Christmas amidst the festivities, traditions, and forced good cheer.

At a time when fear-mongering is rearing its ugly head, Happy Christmas is as relevant today as it was in 1940.

Happy Christmas is book number 4 in the Spirit of Christmas Reading Challenge.


  1. This really sounds like a great story to read this time of year.

    I have not read anything by Daphne DuMaurier but I need to get around to doing so.

    I love the idea of a special section of the library dedicated to holiday books.

  2. I haven't come across this novella, although Du Maurier is one of my favourite authors. It sounds just right for Christmas, or for any time really. Christmas has got far too commercialised and consequently the meaning gets forgotten.

    I wonder why the library tucks away the holiday books like that. My library had a small display of Christmassy type books near the checkout desk this week.