Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel are two of my favourite novels. Atmospheric, evocative stories that keep their reader guessing until the end. So it’s no surprise that her festive short story Happy Christmas, written in 1943, is equally as excellent and affecting- so we were delighted to hide it behind our 16th Advent door.
In Happy Christmas, we meet the Lawrence family – Mr and Mrs Lawrence and their children Bob and Marigold. They live traditional, comfortable, happy and peaceful lives and are looking forward to spending the festive period in their traditional, comfortable, happy and peaceful style.
But all is not so – on Christmas Eve, two Jewish refugees, a man and a woman, turn up on the doorstep with no where else to stay. And the woman is pregnant. The Lawrences do take them in, but ungenerously and ungraciously for a family with so much to offer. The couple ask for very little and, given their reception, eventually disappear as quietly as they arrive. The effect of this on the Lawrences, the guilt and regret it causes them, is a clever dismantling of middle class apathy. Happy Christmas is also a powerful play on the nativity story, conveying the mystery of this time of year, made even more powerful by the current global situation surrounding refugees.