Mistletoe Malice

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Pub Date Nov 02 2023 | Archive Date Nov 29 2023

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A dysfunctional family reunites for the Christmas holiday from hell in this rediscovered festive classic with fangs for fans of Barbara Pym, Elizabeth Taylor and Stella Gibbons.

'Literary comfort and joy. It got me out of mourning for the Cazelet Chronicles.' Meg Mason 

'A stylish and penetrating comedy of manners. My favourite Christmas book by far - and you can read it all year round.' Rachel Joyce 

'A horribly delicious snapshot of post-war family life, in which tensions ensnare the reader in tinsel-covered barbed wire.' Janice Hallett 

The fire is on, sherry poured, presents wrapped, and claws are being sharpened. In a seaside cottage perched on a cliff, one family reunites for Christmas. While snow falls, a tyrannical widowed matriarch presides over her unruly brood. Her niece tends to her whims, but fantasises about eloping; and as more guests arrive, each bringing their secret truths and dreams, the Christmas tree explodes, a brawl erupts, an escape occurs - and their 'midwinter madness' climaxes . . . 

A dysfunctional family reunites for the Christmas holiday from hell in this rediscovered festive classic with fangs for fans of Barbara Pym, Elizabeth Taylor and Stella Gibbons.

'Literary comfort and...

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ISBN 9780571378265
PRICE 9.99

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Average rating from 21 members

Featured Reviews

I loved this!!!! It was such a fun read and really enjoyable. I definitely recommend it. Thanks so much to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC on exchange for an honest review.

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In this fabulous, darkly funny book, members of an extended family who really don't care for one another very much are getting together for Christmas at the behest of the needy, controlling matriarch. What could possibly go wrong? Plenty. Let's just say that things take an unfestive turn and tidings of comfort and joy are not exactly there in abundance. As an example of the feelings people have towards one another, one character says to another, " The very essence of the stupidity of countless generations has solidified into one person. And that person is you..." Yes, one big happy family group together for the festive season.

Rachel, the matriarch, and her niece by marriage, Bess live in the house. Arriving for Christmas this year as they do every year are Rachel's daughter and son-in-law, a niece, and a nephew. New this year is Rachel's ne'er do well son who left under a cloud a long time ago and hasn't been seen since. There is also a cook/housekeeper who is a snoop and a bit nasty. Already complicated relationships are stressed and no one is having a particularly good time.

The book takes place over the course of 3 1/2 days. Each section of the book describes one of those days--The Day Before Christmas, Christmas Day, The Day After Christmas, and The Return. There is an afterword at the end, which describes the way in which the book came to be republished and a bit about the author herself.

I loved this book. The family is quite dysfunctional, each member in their own way. People are stuck in various ways, which is bad enough individually, but creates new issues when the dysfunction is all enclosed in the space of one house at a time of year when the pressures of the season cause problems of their own. Then the return of the son--a surprise to all of the visitors--adds another layer of tension. All that said, the book is quite funny, in a dark sort of way. I'm thrilled that the book is being republished--the time is definitely right for it--and delighted that I've had the chance to read it! I hope to read more by this author in future. Highly recommend.

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Recently I have been enjoying darker and mystery related Christmas novels so I really enjoyed the tense atmosphere and unsettling family dynamics.

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A rather joyous tale - despite the fact that it concerns a very dysfunctional family gathering for an equally dysfunctional family Yuletide - in this delicious comedy of appalling manners. Relayed effectively over several days of Yuletide, this darkly humorous tale is easily devoured in one sitting as the reader is unable to tear their eyes away as the vinegar wit and the wry social commentary spills from the pages.

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Originally published in 1951, Kathleen Farrell’s novel Mistletoe Malice has been republished in paperback by Faber Books.

A dysfunctional family congregates over Christmas at the matriarchal home on the high cliffs by the sea. Like the turbulent waters that can be heard from the house, tempers inside are similarly volatile. Starting the day before Christmas and set over four days, tensions rise even as the festivities reach their climax.

All of the characters in this book are equally culpable in their own disappointments, but that doesn’t stop them from taking their unhappiness out on each other. Everyone is trying to score points, but no one (besides the reader) is having much fun.

Kathleen Farrell’s acerbic wit shines in this story of a family taking tit for tat over the holiday season.

I enjoyed this one so much that I ordered a copy for myself before I was halfway through reading this ARC that was kindly provided to me by Faber Books through NetGalley.

Thank you Faber Books for republishing Mistletoe Malice and making it readily available to modern readers. Here’s hoping there are plans to republish more of Kathleen Farrell’s books in the future!

If you are interested in reading my full review you can find it on Goodreads.

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"The term 'delicious' is a perfect descriptor for this book! There's something about dysfunctional families and Christmas that spawns some of the greatest stories. This is a book to savor and enjoy. We also have to celebrate the fact that the publisher has brought it back into print after such a long absence.

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Well, this is certainly an antidote to saccharine-sweet family Christmas tableaux! This book is dark, biting and, yes, deliciously malicious. Every single character is unlikeable in some way, and for that reason, they are all the more relatable (discomfortingly so). The writing has been compared to Elizabeth Jane Howard's Cazalet chronicles, but I think this is much more cynical, and more brutally revealing of the human condition and all the foibles that entails. One to read when you want to escape from mingling with guests this festive season!

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Farrell’s gloriously acerbic novel – originally published in 1951 and now reissued by Faber – takes a scalpel to the traditional family Christmas family. Elderly, tyrannical Rachel hosts a beautifully drawn cast of ensemble characters, including wayward son Adrian and repressed daughter Marion. Over the course of four days, their resentments, desires, frustrations and foibles are brought to light in razor-sharp dialogue and astute observations.

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