Monday, September 16, 2013
The Walnut Tree by Charles Todd: A Christmas Tale
I'm not sure I realized that this was classified as Christmas fiction when I requested the book.
Somehow I ran across Charles Todd's name and thought his World War I British settings would be interesting - sort like revisiting Downton Abbey during the war years. The Walnut Tree does have that flavor as Lady Elspeth Douglas must answer to her cousin who has been made her guardian until she is 30 years old. When Elspeth decides she wants to train as a war nurse she must hide her upper class title to be accepted. It seems class and advantage can be a burden, especially when a twenty-something female.
I like the quiet stories, old cottages, and remote villages peopled with interesting characters that tend to populate English period fiction, and in that, this book delivered. I also enjoyed Elspeth's strength and her loyalty. I did feel the book had too many chance meetings between Elspeth and childhood acquaintances. Whether she was on the war front in France, the hospitals of England, or a train, she always seemed to be meeting someone she knew. They were "meet ups" necessary to advancing the plot, and would be the kind of chance meetings you might expect in a Downton Abbey episode, but I still found them to be too plentiful and frequent. It almost made it seem like there were only a dozen or so people involved in the war effort. Despite that, I enjoyed the book and found Elspeth an admirable character.
There is a little mystery to this book, but it is not a major element to the story. Since Todd is known for his Ian Rutledge and Bess Crawford mysteries, I wonder just how prevalent the mysteries are within those books. I do have plans to tackle the Bess Crawford mysteries later this upcoming winter. They are set in WWI and after, and also feature a nurse. So many authors, so many stories.