The Christmas Tin II

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The Christmas Tin II

Last Free Dates: 4th Nov 15 to 8th Nov 15
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...three absolutely wonderful short Christmas stories of hope and triumph, embedded in a double-framing structure, which is over-extended and rather dry....

One Christmas, seven-year-old Anna asks her father about a tin box, and is told it is the Christmas tin for memories and momentoes. When she’s twenty she comes back and asks about the new items it contains, only for her father to tell her about the events of the previous year when he nearly lost his job, and met the people who gave him the items, and told him the stories behind them in the process.

This book is basically three absolutely wonderful short Christmas stories of hope and triumph. Unfortunately they are embedded in a double-framing structure, which is over-extended and rather dry. I nearly put the book down twice before the first short, (which starts nearly halfway into the book) which would have been a pity because they are rather good. One of the flashbacks – the present day one with Anna that wraps the whole book – appears only at beginning and end, is completely irrelevant and could be omitted without changing the plot at all. In fact, the book would benefit from it. A serious edit would do marvels for this, not proofing, but an actual structural edit. The author can write, the short stories leave no doubt of that, but it needs a little polish on pacing and characterisation in the longer form. One of the twists we called from location 604 onwards. It actually happens on loc 1615 and the only one surprised is the narrator.

The narrator has an almost sheltered naivity about the modern job market – he has saved less than a month’s income to tide them over, believes he will be back in work in a month (at Christmas!), and expects he will get the first job he interviews for and will be the only person to get a second round interview. He doesn’t realise it is not enough for an interview to go well, it has to go better than everyone else’s. His wife is a background character, rarely mentioned and quickly shunted upstairs or otherwise out of the way. Her ‘job’ contributes nothing, but he never suggests she should start looking for work.

We debated including one major problem as it is a spoiler but it really was a book-against-wall moment. As it was pithly put: You’re redundant and desperate for work. The new owners are running the company into the ground, the clients’ contracts expire in a month and they’re looking for alternatives, you have no non-compete, and the old (and also redundant) owner is trying to get in touch. Do you a) phone him or b) wander off to Vermont for Xmas?

The short stories on the other hand, of a family struggling through the Depression, a family of slaves escaping the South to Canada, and a group of American soldiers captured by a German Home guard member in the Second World War are very, very, good.

To give you an idea of the contrast? This book is getting a 2. If the framing narrative was left out, it would be an easy four/possible five.

This is one of those books where I’m not saying “get an editor” because the author is bad. I’m saying it because they are a good author, but that little extra push could make it great. There is a lot of potential here, it is just not quite realised.

Rating: 2
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Discussion

rz3300 (26 September 2016)
I need more things like hope and triumph in my life, and it is getting close to that time of year, so I have pretty high hopes for this one, and I just hope that doesn't come back to hurt me. I am curious about this double framing structure though, and that should be interesting.

clair02 (27 September 2016)
I am so happy that I came across this book in time for this year's holidays. We could all use a bit of cheer and uplifting as the holidays approach and this book promises that for all of us. I just love a book that has the power to change my mood for the better. Thanks for sharing this.

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