Decorating the Xmas Tree

Every December on the blog I feature the special CiB meme ‘Xmas in books, accompanied by carefully chosen pictures’

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. 

Today a classic scene of tree decoration, but with unlikely and unconventional participants.

It pays to be Good by Noel Streatfeild

published 1936

Tree It Pays to Be Good

Jasmine was decorating the Christmas tree. Mouse knelt by a box of ornaments and passed them to her to hang. Jasmine loved a tree.

“I shall hate it,” she said, “when the children are too old to have one. Of course they nearly are already: when you think of it Meriel’s 15 and Lucia’s 12.”

“Avis is still a baby… and no-one would ever think Meriel was 15.”

“No she’s not a bit a grown-up miss thank goodness. All the same, in no time now we shall be doing courts and dances and the paper will say: ‘I saw Lady Mention, one of our sourest hostesses, yawning her head off while she waited for her debutante daughter.’ And when you think I’ve three daughters and will be doing it for years, it’s frightful.”

“Don’t pretend to me, my sweet.” Mouse passed her a gold apple. “You’ve got a throbbing mother-heart. You’ll adore it.”
She spoke lightly, but there was an undercurrent in her which made Jasmine look at her… “This being the season of goodwill,” she stammered over the last word. “I think it might be nice to say a little something.”

Mouse handed her a blue glass swan with a green feather tail.

commentary: It’s hard to believe that Streatfeild published this book the same year as all time blog favourite Ballet Shoes. No-one reading the two books would be in any doubt that she went in the right direction in concentrating more on the children’s books (though she did continue to write adult novels).

It’s the story of Flossy Elk, who comes from an unprivileged South London background, and is incredibly beautiful. Men fall in love with her very easily. She is a moderately talented actress and singer, but she becomes a huge star just because of her beauty. She is also horrible – in the line of Streatfeild Bad Girls from Dulcie in Wintle’s Wonders to another Dulcie in Babbacombes. She is dreary and not terribly convincing. The book is something of a mess, with hints of a much better novel that it might have been, but perhaps NS was busy thinking up details for Ballet Shoes, so we’ll let her off.

The two women above are the wife and mistress of Lord Menton: they are great friends, each very understanding of the other’s position. And, yes, Mouse is invited for Xmas to the family home. Jasmine is about to reveal to her that her marital problems were her fault because she really didn’t care for sex. It is a quite unexpected conversation.

There is a melodramatic ending to the book, and – most upsettingly – Flossie doesn’t really get her come-uppance. The sisters from The Whicharts, another of Streatfeild’s weird experimental adult novels, pop up towards the end of the book.

It was an easy read, but really only for Streatfeild completists like me.

More Streatfeild all over the blog, including last weeks festive entry on another Streatfeild book for adults, Aunt Clara.


  1. Just from your description, Moira, it honestly doesn't sound like one for me. Your review is, as always, excellent. But the story? No, not my sort of thing. I know what you mean, though, about that gestalt that comes from reading all of a top author's work, even if it isn't the author's best.

    1. Margot: it's in my category 'I read this one so you don't have to!'

  2. Moira, a book like this, should I be holding one, would present a dilemma — to read or not to read it. I have hardly read books with this type of a storyline or narrative style.

    Merry Christmas!

    1. Merry Christmas to you too Prashant. I will say, this book was a quick and easy read, not too demanding.


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