Published in: 1999
Age Range: Pre Teens+
The Shepherds (Anne & Jack with children Joy and Mel) are on their way to the Lakes when their car breaks down fortuitously near a B&B. When they go inside they discover that the Partridge family who run it (Ivy & Colin with daughter Holly and grandfather Felix Cox) have cornered the niche market in Christmas every day of the year: “Anyone cheated of a traditional British Christmas with their children could look to Forever Xmas to supply the full gamut of festivities”. The first effect is one Bagthorpian unreality: the Partridges supplying seasonal jollity for all their guests; Holly their daughter the Christmas Elf, colluding with “FC” the Grandfather Christmas to fulfil wishes. Joy Shepherd who becomes friends with Holly; and young Mel who believes it all and is upset because the Shepherds won't let it be Christmas for him. To top it all there's an undercover Environmental Health inspector called Mr Angel.But it's strangely real (or really strange) and the characters shift and develop and ultimately it is the unknowing actions of the child, Mel, which bring about everyone's redemption.
I enjoyed this tremendously; in its few 100+ pages it's got something special: the half-child, half-adult characters of Joy and Holly; the grandfather Christmas who's the life and soul of the place; the down-to-earth and unwitting Angel in the tree; the Starrs who just want to be together; trusting Mel; and the ultimately repentant Mr Shepherd. The people are convincing in their reactions, down to the peripheral bus driver and cast of extras. In its way, the book represents what many people find or would like to find in the feast of Christmas. In the same way that the Partridges recreate the secular Christmas all year round, the story draws strong parallels with Christmas: the Shepherds who bring Joy; the wise men who follow a Starr; the child, Mel, whose innocence brings about the redemption of everyone else.
Tuesday 1st January 2002