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The More the Merrier

Style: Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable

Cover of The More the Merrier

Author: Anne Fine

Publisher: Doubleday

Published in: 2003

Age Range: Young Teens

Period: Contemporary

Setting: Family home at Christmas

Genres:  FamilyHumorous


Characters:

  • Ralph is the young first-person narrator of the one-act comedy where the different members of his extended family come round for Christmas.
  • Titania is his annoying little cousin given to wearing frilly dresses and singing soppy songs about fairies in the garden.
  • Uncle Tristam is his mother's brother and a cynical ally in the battle against Titania.
  • Great Granny is the Matriarch of the family, and given to statements like "If I had my own teeth, I'd bite you" and "By the time I was your age I had read Milton".

Synopsis:

Ralph's family have invited the relatives around for Christmas Day, although not certain relatives who turn up anyway, and Ralph weaves his way skilfully through the chaos which ensues, trying to keep his own end up in the face of variously annoying relatives.

Notes:

General: A witty comedy of manners, told from the point of view of a boy when his family come round for Christmas dinner. The characters are all just slightly larger than life, offering entertainment while still being entirely recognisable. The device of creating very short chapters gives the effect of Ralph moving around the house with a video camera focusing on different people as they interact within the confines of the small house.

Christmas: A fairly jaundiced view of Christmas and family gatherings in general, focusing on the family members and their idiosyncracies and interactions. Obviously presents and turkey come into it, but Christmas is only the backdrop: it could have been set at any celebration if the author had wished.

“You'll have the Brussels sprouts, perhaps?”

“Are they organic?”

“Yes,” Mum lied. (She told Dad afterwards that it was either lying or throwing the turkey carcass at Aunt Susan, and Dad agreed she had chosen The Better Path.)

“That's everyone served at last, then,” Mum said. “Phew!”

She was about to serve herself when Uncle Tristram's empty plate arrived in front of her, passed up from the end of the table.

“Are there seconds?” he was asking hopefully.

Mum went red in the face. She turned to Dad. “Well, I admit it. You were right,” she said.

“What about?” Dad said, mystified.

“WHen I was worrying about the food. You came up behind me and put your arms around me and said, 'Don't give it a moment's thought, Tansy. You can drive yourself into the ground cooking for that lot, and at the end you'll realise you might as well have been feeding them hay.'”

“Ha, ha!” Dad said. “Very amusing!” He turned to everyone staring around the table. “I never said that, of course. Tansy's making it up. Very funny, Tansy. Very funny.”

I don't think for a moment that anyone believed him.

After the Queen finished, there was a short appeal on behalf of battered children. We heard a scrabbling and all turned round to see Great-Granny digging in her bag for a pen an her chequebook.

“A very worthwhile cause,” she kept on saying. “And, after all, it is Christmas.”

I thought it was a bit unlike her. But only Dad had the brains to suss it out.

“No, no, Natasha,” he warned. “It isn't a helpline to advise people how to do it. It's a helpline to try and prevent them.”

Great-Granny looked up., “Really?” You could tell she was astonished. She stuffed her chequebook back in her bag. “I can't for the life of me imagine who might want to support that.”

Friday 9th January 2004