Friday, January 03, 2020

While It's Nothing to Really Sing About, Christmas Bells is a Heartwarming Holiday Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

One of my favorite things about Christmas is the music.  I like a jolly "Frosty the Snowman" or "Up on the Housetop" as much as the next person, but it's the tender, inspiring hymns about the Savior's birth and His influence on the world that really touch my soul.  "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" is one such hymn.  Since Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is my favorite poet (he's also the only one whose poems I can actually make sense of), I knew a little bit about the story behind his famous Yuletide poem, but when I heard that Jennifer Chiaverini had written a whole novel about it, I knew I wanted to read it.  Naturally, I intended to enjoy the book before Christmas, but that didn't happen so I made Christmas Bells my first priority in the new year.

The novel actually tells two stories concurrently—one (Longfellow's) which takes place in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1860-1864, the other which is set in present-day Boston.  The former is based on the true events which led to Longfellow's creation of the Christmas Bells poem, while the latter is a completely fictional tale that concerns several members of a church congregation who come together because of a Christmas concert performed by its children's choir.  The characters highlighted in both tales are in need of some holiday cheer, comfort, or courage.  All could use the kind of miracles that seem to happen only at Christmastime.  Will they get them?

I was most excited to read about Longfellow, so I was a little disappointed to find that his sections of the book got a little long and a little dull.  They included some interesting information, but Longfellow's chapters felt more like a history textbook than a novel.  The modern story was compelling enough to keep me reading, but it didn't turn out to be anything really mind-blowing either.  While Christmas Bells isn't as dazzling as I wanted it to be, it does make for heartwarming holiday reading.  I liked it, I just didn't love it.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of In the Dark Streets Shineth by David McCullough)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for war-related violence and blood/gore

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Christmas Bells from Changing Hands Bookstore with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

4 comments:

  1. Too bad this wasn't amazing but I'm glad it was still a nice cozy read.

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  2. It sounds like a great premise. It would have been great it it hadn't had such a textbook feel to parts, I am sure. Nice review Susan.

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  3. Too bad the author didn't turn the Longfellow information into a story. That feels like a real missed opportunity.

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  4. Too bad the parts about Longfellow weren't more interesting and compelling. That's the part I'd want to read the most, too.

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