I bought this lovely book – now sadly out of print – from Abebooks following some discussion of it on a librarything forum.
Set at Christmas 1946 in a country house. Two sides of a complicated family are gathered for ten days over Christmas. The children: Roddy, Lal, Erica, Terry (a girl) and Clare visiting from America decide to produce a play. They are helped by aspiring theatrical producer Jonathon the 19 year old Son of the local doctor – who’s sister Judy is also one of the gang rehearsing the play. The play is to be performed especially for Clare and Lal’s uncle Ted, an actor who unable to get away from his commitments any earlier will be arriving the Sunday after Christmas, the day chosen to hold the play. 17 year old Rosalind decides she is too old now to join the children, and so descends to the drawing room instead. The adults meanwhile are comfortably ensconced downstairs, preparing for christmas, and thinking about times gone by.
However in the those few short days – all sorts of things change. Enormous arguments erupt – sparked by a duplicated gift – among the children, and the play begins to seem as if it will never happen. Old wounds are reopened downstairs amongst the adults too again over a seemingly small thing. Then Ted arrives – and gently starts to smooth out some of the hurts just with his presence and enthusiasm.
It is in the minutiae of how people think, act, react and suffer over small invisible hurts, that makes this lovely novel. The characters are faithfully drawn, their resentments and secrets laid bare with brilliant accuracy – was all too believable. It is a rare thing – to discover a well written, deeply charming, Christmas novel, that is not overly sentimental. So glad I chose to read it over the Christmas period. It would certainly be a novel that I can imagine being re-published by Persephone books. I do think those characters would rest nicely between soft dove grey covers.