They’re here for the Christmas Circus…

Every December on the blog I feature Xmas scenes and Xmas books – I never seem to run out, but am still open to ideas and suggestions.

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 lesser-known book for adults by an all-time children’s (and blog) favourite.

Aunt Clara by Noel Streatfeild

published 1952

Aunt Clara Xmas Circus 1

At Christmas Clara had many old friends to visit at the mission, and many parcels to pack and take to them. There was the excitement of the opening of the circus. Charles had bought the seats, Clara and Henry across a gangway from Charles and Julie. Wrapped in her sealskin coat, her eyes gleaming with childlike excitement from behind her pince-nez, Clara gazed around the arena, and in no time was in conversation with those in the seats next to her, those in front and those behind. She pointed out The Flying Fishes on the programme and spoke of Andrew.

In vain Henry looked disapproving, and tried to draw Clara’s attention to the ring. “That’ll be where they comes on, Miss Clara. Look, you can see a ‘orse waitin’.” “Lovely pattern of sawdust, isn’t it?”

Clara was adding to the pleasure of her neighbours and, thinking only of this, refused to be silenced. “Such a treat for me. I’ve always been such an old stick-in-the-mud. I can hardly believe that I’m sitting in this lovely seat and that one of the performers is my dear Andrew.”

Aunt Clara Xmas Circus 2

commentary: There were 2 other posts on this book earlier in the year, where I explained the rather complex setup. For now all that matters is that Aunt Clara has come to the circus for Christmas, has her beloved friends around her, and that the young man she is looking out for has got the chance he deserves with the top trapeze artistes, The Flying Fishes.

As I said back in the summer, the book isn’t as mellow and simplistic as a plot outline would suggest, but it is terrific fun.

I have an argument about the Gamblers’ Luck fairground game which Simon Hilton had shares in: each of the two ‘great’ wheels has many pictures on it, and a player has to buy a ticket with the right combination when the wheels come to a stop after spinning. It’s a nice idea, but the numbers don’t make sense: if there were just 15 on each wheel, the odds would be one in 225, and the showman would have to sell that many tickets to ensure a winner. (There is an implication that he doesn’t want a winner, but that is not taken very seriously, and the prizes are not very fancy: Miss Clara gets a nice flowery shopping bag… ). I think NS didn’t work out the odds properly, and now I am busy in my head trying to work out a way to improve the game.

In the film of the book – which I looked at in a previous post – the cheating in the game is more overt, and there are a very small number of divisions on the wheel. But frankly that looks silly and unconvincing.

Many many more Noel streatfeild entries can be found by clicking on the label below. And more circus posts and pictures, including some nice pictures in an earlier post on this book. 

The picture of Santa at the Circus is actually a department store window from the Tyne and Wear Archives, a frequent source of Xmas-y pictures. (And, Santa is the name of the heroine of Streatfeild’s children’s book The Circus is Coming.)

Second picture is The Circus by George Wesley Bellows, from the Athenaeum website.


  1. Oh, yes! I remember you discussing this one, Moira. And it does look like fun. Interesting, isn't it, how those smaller things like the Gambler's Luck game. Those details can stick in your mind and keep you ruminating, can't they?

    1. I don't know if I'm an author's nightmare (focussing on finding mistakes in details) or a dream (pays a lot of attention, takes it seriously...)!

  2. Both the topics of circuses and Christmas sound like fun.

    1. Two of my favourite tropes in books, Tracy, so perfect for me.


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