BOOK REVIEW: 'A Christmas Hope': Anne Perry Introduces an Admirable Woman -- and Her Less Than Admirable Spouse

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
 
BOOK REVIEW: 'A Christmas Hope': Anne Perry Introduces an Admirable Woman -- and Her Less Than Admirable Spouse
Have you ever had the urge to reach inside a novel you're reading and slap a character upside the head? Come on, admit it: Of course you have!

I felt this way about Wallace Burroughs, the husband of Claudine Burroughs, the heroine of Anne Perry's "A Christmas Hope" (Ballantine Books, 208 pages, $18.00, also available in Kindle). Unlike the husbands of Perry's characters Charlotte Pitt and Hester Monk, Wallace Burroughs never has a compliment on his lips for his wife, after decades of marriage. A personal aside: the present reviewer celebrates his 49th wedding anniversary on Nov. 14 and he and Liz have always paid each other compliments.

 (For my review of Perry's 2012  "A Christmas Garland":  http://www.huntingtonnews.net/50220).

Like the other Anne Perry Christmas novels, "A Christmas Hope" has a link to her Pitt and Monk books: Claudine volunteers at a clinic/shelter run by Hester Monk, much to the disdain of Wallace. (I can barely restrain myself, like the wheelchair-bound Nazi scientist played by Peter Sellers in "Dr. Strangelove" -- who has to restrain  his arm to avoid giving the Nazi salute).

We learn early in the novel, in an important plot point, that Claudine was pressured into the loveless marriage with wealthy, ambitious investment counselor Wallace Burroughs, rejecting -- to her eventual sorrow -- a suitor who loved her --and vice versa.

Still, Claudine knows that she must keep up appearances, including accompanying Wallace to social events that enhance her husband's income -- and enable her to live a life of material luxury. She does her best to placate her coldly ambitious husband, so when the novel begins, we find Claudine and Wallace at a party to which, inexplicably to Wallace, the flamboyant Welsh poet Dai Tregarron has been invited.

 Tregarron is much like a 19th Century Dylan Thomas, intent on shocking high society. He has even brought a woman of the streets, Winnie Briggs, to the party. After a conversation with the poet on the terrace, Claudine sees an altercation in which Winnie is killed. Three young men are credited with restraining Tregarron after he allegedly struck Winnie, causing her to hit her head. She's taken to a hospital and is later pronounced dead. Tregarron flees.

Claudine suspects the three upper class young men had more involvement in Winnie's death than everybody -- including Wallace Burroughs -- believes, and that Tregarron was actually defending Winnie from the three young men.

Claudine convinces one of the most intriguing characters in the Perry canon -- Squeaky Robinson -- to help her prove Tregarron's innocence. Squeaky works as a bookkeeper at the clinic run by Hester Monk. He's a character straight out of Dickens, a reformed brothel keeper, arrested by William Monk and forced to take the job at the clinic to at least partially redeem himself -- and to survive.

Other than to say that one of the characters in the novel, a young woman, reminds Claudine of herself some three decades in the past, I won't give away any more of the plot of this wonderful book. Read it for yourself to find out why -- despite all the problems of the world -- Christmas is a time for hope.

Anne Perry
Anne Perry

About the Author

Anne Perry is the bestselling author of two acclaimed series set in Victorian England: the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novels, including "Treason at Lisson Grove" and "Buckingham Palace Gardens", and the William Monk novels, including "Acceptable Loss" and "Execution Dock" (both of which I've read and reviewed, along with other Perry novels). She is also the author of a series of five World War I novels, as well as eleven holiday novels, including "A Christmas Hope", and a historical novel, "The Sheen on the Silk", set in the Ottoman Empire and reviewed on this site by the present reviewer. Anne Perry lives in Scotland. Her website: www.AnnePerry.net.

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