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A Christmas Hope
on November 12, 2013 and has 197 pages.
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Eleventh in Anne Perry’s Christmas Stories historical mystery series and set in Monk’s Victorian world of 1868, although Monk doesn’t appear in this.
It’s a bleak existence, attending parties for the sake of social and business advancement. Things get out of hand, however, and everything in Claudine’s world is overturned. And we encounter the double standards and the huge preference for appearance over character that are so disgusting in a society.
People’s prejudices and expectations condemn another, mostly because it’s easier. Don’t want to rock the boat, do we? Wallace’s views are enough to make any woman scream. The threat Wallace holds over her. That he has legal control over what she is allowed to do, whether she’s incarcerated for madness, will make you furious. What’s sad about them is that women still hear them today. That people still judge others based on their social standing, how much help a person can be to them.
It’s so wrong to accept a convenient settling of a case rather than to find the true culprit. And it’s even worse when we use that double standard of insisting it’s murder if committed by someone we view as lower than ourselves socially, economically, or racially. That it’s an “unfortunate incident” if committed by someone of our own class or “better”.
There are so many reasons to want to scream at the injustice in this story. To wonder at the many injustices that did slip through the cracks because someone wasn’t willing to stand up.
I loved the reference to Florence Nightingale. The story mentions that Claudine is sending out “Christmas cards, a new custom but a charming one”. There are also some rather poetic declarations about the passions of one’s work whether it’s helping at the clinic or writing poetry, the feeling behind those passions.
“Virtue is not always an easy or a comfortable thing. … Sometimes it comes at a high cost. … to be what he seems on the outside … then he must do more than speak well. He must act well. … free to be his own man: less daring, less outrageous, but a good deal truer to the best in himself.”
A Christmas Hope provides reasons for not marrying someone. I’ve read arguments for and against arranged marriages. I’ve read the negatives and positives of both, and there are good reasons in both directions. The one definite seems to be wait. Don’t marry someone for their social or economic standing. Don’t marry the first wo/man you fall in love with. Yes, there are exceptions. But they are so few. When young, one isn’t mature enough, generally, to understand a life long with one person. Heck, no one is mature enough to tell if another is a good match until they understand themselves. What makes them as an individual tick, ticked off or tickled pink.
I have to wonder if Claudine stays married to Wallace…
Some things simply have to be gotten through with these parties Wallace insists on attending, dull, tedious, and boring. And it’s the Giffords’ party where Claudine learns how not boring a party can be when a prostitute is beaten almost to death and an innocent man is at risk.
Claudine Burroughs is married to Wallace, a cold-hearted jerk more concerned with appearance and duty. And Dai calls her Olwen. Claudine works at Hester Monk‘s clinic and finds fulfillment there (in this story, William Monk is the head of the Thames River Police). Ada is the kitchen maid.
Dai Tregarron refers to himself as a womanizing “poet, philosopher, and deep drinker of life” preferably a fine whiskey. Winnie Briggs is a prostitute Dai invites to a party.
Forbes and Oona (his second wife) Gifford are giving the party. Alphonsine Gifford is Forbes’ daughter from his first marriage. Nigel Halversgate and his wife, Charlotte, a.k.a., Tolly, have a son, Ernest. The bitchy Euphemia “Eppy” Crostwick dotes on her son, Cecil, and prefers the barbed insult. Lambert and Verena Foxley, their son, Creighton.
Sergeant Green is investigating. Squeaky Robinson is a disreputable bookkeeper at Hester’s clinic, who has rescued Claudine before. Arthur Davidson is a major contributor to Hester’s clinic, as payback for his own dissolute youth. John Barton is an honest man concerned with truth.
The Cover and Title
The cover is golden with whites, dull greens, black, and a flash of pink as a lone couple twirls on the dance floor and other couples line up to chat in the ballroom.
The title is what underlies the entire story, A Christmas Hope, that “Christmas is about everyone: rich or poor, friend or stranger”, that it’s “about … offering hope to all people”.