Christmas in Paris & Christmas Romance

The special CiB meme ‘Xmas scenes from books, accompanied by carefully chosen pictures’ is back!

Every year I do a series of Xmas entries on the blog, helped and encouraged by suggestions and recommendations from my lovely readers. If you use Pinterest you can see some of the beautiful seasonal pictures on this page, and you can find (endless!) more Xmas books via the labels at the bottom of the page. You’d think I’d be running out of Xmas books and scenes by now, but far from it – I have to begin this feature earlier in December each year. More ideas still welcome in the comments. (If it’s a particularly good choice I will ditch one of the ones I have ready and give you credit…)

Mosaic by GB Stern

published 1930

Mosaic Xmas

Uncle Nathan de Jong and Aunt Amelie came to Paris on a visit for the Christmas of 1909, and brought with them their two daughters, Camille and Jeanne-Marie.

[Their hostesses] Berthe and Letti had a brilliant idea: “We will not stay at home for our Christmas dinner…Let us, then, be rustics this Noel, and command a big automobile… and we will drive altogether down to Ville d’Avray, arrive there before it is dark, and take a little promenade round the lake, and I will have it arranged beforehand that the good hostess at the Aurberge shall prepare us an excellent dinner…”

Etienne [Letti’s son] and Camille, both in love, were quietly ecstatic at the thought of a lake, and perhaps, who knows, a moon. Uncle Nathan approved, reckoning that the festivity would work out cheaply for everyone except perhaps Berthe.

Jeanne-Marie, whose voice was heard far too often during her visit to Paris – (“She must be, I think, the original enfant terrible,” thought Berthe, who hated her) – was delighted with any plan that separated her so effectually from bed and her normal bed-time.

Mosaic Xmas 2

commentary: … and they do have a good time, with Stern keeping us uptodate with the whole party. I love that Jeanne-Marie is ‘a pert, pretty Riviera child of eight, with a very knowing sash’ – Berthe longs to throw her from the automobile as they rush on at a high speed of 15mph.

When they reach their destination, a walk must happen. Camille and Etienne ‘were soon out of sight’ while Jeanne-Marie and Berthe are stuck together as they ‘march grimly round the lake.’ Letti is lost in her own memories of a romantic tryst at this very spot many years before, ‘wondering if it were selfish to wish that it could still be herself, instead of her son Etienne, finding love tonight between the moon and trees.’

When Etienne and Camille re-appear (Jeanne-Marie criticizes Berthe for not being a good chaperone, ‘but if he had kissed her she would have screamed, and then we would have heard…’) Letti suddenly starts singing the song Au Clair de la Lune, and
Camille never forgot the magic of that snatch of nursery rhyme, rounder and sweeter than any carol of Noel, heard so near the quiet luminous water, and so soon after Etienne had told her he loved her.
A perfect Christmas romance.  And I do feel that top picture is so plainly Camille, in love, listening to Au Clair de la Lune.

There are several more entries on this book, and on others by GB Stern. Check out the tabs below.

And I am, always, endlessly grateful to Hilary McKay (someone else who writes so well about families) for telling me about the books. There are multiple earlier entries on the first two books, The Matriarch and A Deputy was King.

Picture by Delphine Enjolras, via the Athenaeum.

Magazine Cover from the Library of Congress.


  1. Something about Christmas just lends itself to a romance, doesn't it, Moira? And you can't beat the setting for that, either! Interesting to see how all of this was done at that time, too. Normally, I'm not one for a romance, but this looks like a nice one.

    1. I love it that the author is never sentimental or twee, but in the middle of her sharp insights and funny comments she will take a moment for someone to be happy...

  2. "...with a very knowing sash" - now that is what I call giving meaning to clothes. I would love to see what a sash like that looks like!

    1. So glad someone else loved that phrase: it has been making me laugh ever since I read it. I keep looking to see if I can see a knowing (or even in-knowing) item of dress or accessory elsewhere...

  3. Lovely images for this post. But this book still isn't for me.

    I have just finished (in one day, amazing for me) The Becket Factor, which I first learned about here. It is set at Christmas, which was a happy surprise for me. I think I liked it better than you did, probably because I know so little about church and cathedrals.

    1. Oh yes, The Becket Factor, was I rude about it? I simultaneously loved his books and found fault with them: but I certainly loved the settings and the Cathedral and the seasons of the year. And I know I have read all his books several times, which is always a recommendation. So glad you liked it!

    2. I am glad to hear you have read the rest of his books, because I want to now and I wasn't sure. You were not rude, but less enthusiastic than I had remembered. Strangely enough, I liked the romance, the relationship between the protagonist and his wife, which is unusual for me. Referring to your list, I should try Nebuly Coat and Holy Disorders for more set in cathedrals (and I already have copies).

    3. I think the Michael David Anthony books are nice, and you will like them. As for me, I like any book set in a church or cathedral.

  4. That 'very knowing sash' sounds delightful! I keep meaning to read some GB Stern.

    1. I know! Such a great phrase. And I do recommend this author...


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