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
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.
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.