Monday, December 15, 2008

Book Look Review "A Christmas Journey"

Book Look
Debbie Balzotti

“A Christmas Journey”
An Audio (or Paper) Book Recommendation for Christmas

There is something so Dickens Christmas about listening to the voice of Terrence Hardiman read this story by Anne Perry. Really, what can call up the Victorians better than a talented Brit describing bustles that rustle? He talks about tea and crumpets with such enthusiasm that it is tempting to hold a tea party. The correct accent placed on the correct syllable makes names like Omegus and Lady Vespasia sound positively enchanting. No American reader could pull that off! I have listened to several of these Christmas Victorian mysteries by Perry but I will review only the first one and let you discover the rest at the library.

“A Christmas Journey” is a winter tale that ends on Christmas Eve. The cast of characters are all members of the Victorian gentry and so bound by their society’s rules and regulations they seem at first superficial. It does require some understanding, or at least tolerance of 19th century England to believe these characters and their interpretation of honorable behavior.

Following an evening dinner party at Applecross, a country home in Berkshire, Isobel makes a cruel remark about Gwendolyn. The two widows are rivals for the affection of Bertie (honestly, why do the Brits call grown men Bertie!). The next morning the guests are told of Gwendolyn’s suicide and they all blame Isobel. As Isobel enters the breakfast room the group treats her as if she were invisible. She is about to be cast out of society by their self-righteous judgment.

Omegus Jones, owner of Applecross, proposes a medieval solution that could allow Isobel to redeem herself and keep her part in the suicide a secret forever. All present would agree to her assigned journey of expiation which would allow Isobel to stay a part of their society. Isobel would admit guilt in the death and deliver a sealed letter to Gwendolyn’s mother in Scotland and inform her of the death. Upon completion of the pilgrimage, the guests would gather and confirm their pact of silence.

Lady Vespasia Cumming-Gould, a friend to both women, agrees to accompany her on what becomes an arduous winter journey. The two women eventually meet the most fascinating character in the story, Gwendolyn’s mother. The true cause of Gwendolyn’s suicide is revealed and the three women all return to Applecross for Christmas Eve. Their Christmas now celebrates forgiveness, mercy, charity and friendship.

If you are getting a little weary of listening to Christmas music on the radio, you will enjoy improving your “journey” with this book on CD. There are a couple of risks if you listen to more than one of these novels. The British accent may cause you to imprudently purchase figgy pudding to give as gifts to your family and friends!

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