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This was to be an ""even more glorious Christmas"" than the memorable last one before the war which had sent Clare to America, to her chagrin. But now she was back- for a few months at least- and her cousin Lal and Uncle Ted were to be guests at the Maitlands, and all sorts of other cousins and near cousins, in laws and odd relations were to be there for ""ten days of Christmas"". The story gathers momentum, as an English family gathers- a sort of English equivalent, in so far as that could be, of the Rakonitz tribe, beloved of G.B. Stern fans. It's exciting and absorbing and the reader is one with the clan, eager over the plans for the Nativity play the children want to do for Uncle Ted, over the romance, too long disjointed, of Nick and Tania, of the tremulous appreciation of the significance of the play to Terry, whose emotions were rigidly kept in cold storage, of perceptive portrayal of the tensions and cloaked feelings below the surface oneness. And then- in Lal's betrayal of a trust and self-justification, and in Terry's heartbroken violence, the quarrel breaks out, a quarrel that spreads to engulf them all, to smash the mirror of their joy, to spoil the play, disrupt the new bonds of romance, and change the significance of the title to irony. Superbly, heartbreakingly skilful in handling, it has a poignance that takes the reader to the heart of it, powerless to stop the deluge. G.B. Stern has a wicked genius for quarrels (remember Thunderst The China A Deputy Was King?) I was fascinated to the last word -- and exhausted as if I'd lived through it myself. G.B. Stern in her old tradition, and nobody does it better.

Pub Date: Nov. 6th, 1950
Publisher: Macmillan