A Victorian Christmas Novella
written by Liz Curtis Higgs
224 pages, adult fiction
published in 2011
What does Christmas represent? Love for one another. Cheer. Birth of new things. Reconciliation with the old things. Brilliance. Joy and festivities. Our Savior.
A Wreath of Snow embodies all these thoughts as one, wraps the whole in a swatch of elegant paper wrapping, and ties it up with a bow of twine.
Allow yourself the privilege to read the first paragraph and see if you are drawn into the story as much as I immediately delighted in the author's way with words.
"In all her twenty-six years, Meg Campbell had never been this cold. Shivering inside her green woolen coat, she passed the crowded shops of Murray Place as the snow fell thick and fast. She could only guess when the next train would depart for Edinburgh. Why had she not consulted her father's railway schedule posted by the kitchen door? Because she left Albert Place in tears. Because she left without even saying good-bye."
Doesn't it draw you in?
Displaying a capture of a moment in time, A Wreath of Snow includes only a couple of fateful days in 1894 for Meg Campbell and her family. My!--what an interesting story that can take place in such a small span of time. In Stirling, Scotland, the Campbells at Albert Place intended to enjoy a wonderful Christmas together; events go awry when Meg's brother, Alan, expresses his discontentment from years of suppressed bitterness. When a frosty outpouring from the skies leaves the train tracks blocked, Meg can't escape her brother's sharp words and family's disgruntlement. While running from the strong feelings, she runs right into a stranger who carries secrets and remorse under his winter coat, instead of holiday surprises. Only a provincial meeting could start the healing that all are needing to feel the Christmas spirit.
I felt riveted through the duration of the entire book. Liz Curtis Higgs has a way with words -- she brings them to life, right on the page before your eyes. In fact, during a certain passage in the book, she summarizes the character of a newspaper reporter in the same way I'd like to describe her, if you will. When Higgs writes, she possesses "the hands of an artist whose medium [is] words." (In the book, this phrase stood out to me so well, that I just had to return it as a compliment back to the one who penned the words.) The dialogue is very realistic, and the Scottish inflections are so natural. I also enjoy how the author tastefully weaves scriptures and tidbits of Christian faith directly into the story, so that it strengthens the main plot.
"For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth." The stationmaster splayed his hands. "It would seem the Almighty wanted snow on Christmas Eve." No one could take umbrage with that statement. Not even Alan.
As you read, you'll find it is thoroughly Victorian on every page, in each breath the characters disclose. By this statement, I mean that the gentlemen are true gentlemen, the ladies and true ladies, everything is absolutely prim, proper, and "just so". Traditions and morals are of the utmost importance, and woe upon any who dares to disregard the elegant way of doing something. Yes, the story is perfectly, marvelously Victorian.
Definitely one of my favorite books I've read all year long.
A sequel should be in order, one would hope.
"It was winter; the night was very dark; the air extraordinary clear and cold, and sweet with the purity of forests.... For the making of a story here were fine conditions." (Robert Louis Stevenson)
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