Children's Book of the Month: Christmas with the Savages
A review of our charming children's book of the month by bookseller Isabel Popple
It might only be November, but you can pretty much guarantee that your children are already thinking about Christmas – even if, like me, you’re doing your best to avoid the topic. From the creation of comprehensive wish lists to carol concert preparations, the countdown has undoubtedly begun for most of our little darlings.
But how to keep them occupied without smushing their Christmas spirit? Well, take a peek at our book of the month, Christmas with the Savages for an early taste of the season.
Evelyn has a stuffy sort of family and lives in a grand house with more staff than Downton Abbey. An only child, she’s a little bit spoilt and a little bit silly, and dreams of being part of the sophisticated adult plane her parents inhabit. So it’s a bit of a shock to the system when she’s sent off to the country for Christmas with her mother’s friend, Lady Tamerlane – and Lady Tamerlane’s twelve noisy, argumentative, and imaginatively wild grandchildren.
It doesn’t take Evelyn terribly long, though, to become a solid member of the group, quickly proving herself nearly as adept at creating havoc as the rest of them. There’s the boomerang incident, the lumber room incident, the marathon incident, and – oh, yes – the fire extinguisher incident. All of these little adventures are mixed together with Christmas celebrations and the daily sibling rivalries, catastrophes and childhood misunderstandings that make you smirk and gasp and reminisce in equal measure.
Every word and action brings to life a golden era: the Christmas tree is lit with candles, rooms are decorated with holly and yew and paper-chains, games involve turning tables into pirate ships and cushions into castles. It’s not sugary-sweet, though. If anything, Mary Clive writes Evelyn’s story with an indifferent, tongue-in-cheek sort of air that makes the separation of the childhood and adult worlds more crystallized, and which subtly parallels the separation of Evelyn’s Edwardian, pre-WWI world with the contemporary.
Effortlessly summoning a world of childhood adventure and shenanigans, reading this book whisked me right back to my own childhood Christmases – filled to bursting point with extended family, gifts and mischief-making just like Evelyn’s. From the Savages to the Glen family and the ‘Howliboos’, nannies and uncles and grandfathers, this is a house full of Christmas spirit – in more ways than one. Perfect for putting anyone in the Christmas mood.
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