Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Christmas Hirelings, by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (author), Richard Armitage (narrator)

Audible Audio, December 2018 (original publication 1894)

This is a Victorian Christmas tale, and it's a good one.

Sir John Penlyon is spending Christmas with his niece, Adela, and his friend Thomas Danby, a makeshift family for the aging man with no closer family left to him. Long widowed, his older daughter died just a few years after her own marriage, with no children. His younger daughter married a penniless curate, in defiance of her father, and was of course disowned.

Adela mentions how dull a Christmas with no children is, and Sir John, a bit of a curmudgeon, says Christmas is pointless for a household without children. In short order, Danby has persuaded Sir john to agree to his scheme to hire some suitable young children to enliven their holiday.

In time for Christmas, Danby brings two little girls and a young boy, sweet, endearing children who do indeed enliven the holiday. The younger girl, Moppet, in particular, charms Sir John and endears herself to him.

But this is a Victorian Christmas tale, and Moppet, inevitably, falls dangerously ill. Sir John begins to think he made a mistake in opening his home and his heart. Also, of course, the origin of these children becomes a far more urgent matter. The question of whether a wounded and broken family can be healed becomes the center of this story.

It's very well done, and very moving. Recommended.

I received this audiobook as part of Audible's Audible Originals program, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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