Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Source: Gift from Mom 🙂
In between reading Austenesque Christmas novels and purchasing Austen-Inspired gifts for their loved ones, the only thing needed to complete your Janeite Christmas (besides Mr. Darcy under the tree) is discovering how our beloved authoress celebrated the Christmas season. Did she deck the halls? Exchange gifts? Sing carols? We know that over the years customs have changed and new traditions have developed, but are there any similarities between Jane Austen’s festive season and ours?
Included in this compilation are the excerpts from Jane Austen’s novels, letters, and Juvenilia in which Christmas is mentioned. Most of these are obscure references where Christmas is casually mentioned, often not providing much enlightenment of Georgian Christmas traditions. This dearth of material unfortunately makes Maria Hubert’s compilation about Jane Austen’s Christmas a brief and uninformative one. To supplement the lack of material from the Austen family, Ms. Hubert includes excerpts of poems, letters, and diary entries from poet Robert Southey and clergyman William Holland amongst others. While I did enjoy Southey’s poems, I felt Reverend Holland’s diary entries a little bit ill-fitting and uninteresting. Poor Reverend Holland seems a glum person and his diary entries reflect little joy or excitement for the holiday season.
Besides the lack of material, my other complaint for this compilation is its disorganization. There appears to be no order or sense to the entires and excerpts. I would have loved to have seen thematic chapters or some type of structure in this collection. Perhaps a chapter designated for each aspect of the holiday season (i.e. music, games, food, etc.). In addition, I would have greatly appreciated an index or some sort of appendix at the end, which are included in most resourceful reference books.
Now I don’t fault Maria Hubert for the lack of recorded material and data about the Austen family’s Christmas traditions; that is something she has no control over. But I do wish she went another direction with her supplemental text. Her audience is most likely readers who love and admire Jane Austen and are curious about how she celebrated Christmas. If there isn’t enough information about the Austens, broaden the scope! Illustrate the traditional festivities and customs of typical Georgian families. The Austens were most likely similar to most average families of their time.
Bottom line: I would love for a redo of this book! I think discovering how the Austen’s celebrated Christmas is a subject of much interest to Austen admirers, but unfortunately this compilation does not deliver! I see that Maria Hubert has compiled several other Christmas collections, I would love to read A Brontë Christmas and Christmas in Shakespeare’s England, but since they are out of print and reviewers on Goodreads said basically the same thing I did about Jane Austen’s Christmas, I might hold off.