CHRISTMAS STORY REVIEW: Silver Bells – by Sadie Hart

Every year, the carousel in South Howle takes a beating, and every year, Dash Bartholemew tenderly brings it back to life. It’s a job he started 15 years ago, which he continued in solitude. However, when a young homeless women comes through the door, it changes his life.

Silver Bells is an impassioned love letter to Christmas stories.  It’s a story for those who are a big fan of the tinsel, Santa Claus, and the ‘real meaning of Christmas’ (and by that I don’t mean Jesus. Or placating the pagans. I mean showing ‘goodwill towards men’ for a month so we don’t feel so guilty about the other eleven months we spent being a turd). It has all the vital ingredients for a jolly Christmas tale; Santa and his reindeer; human kindness bringing a ray of light even in the darkness of poverty ; and- a la The Snowman– a small sense of loss at the fleetingness of the time.

This is a well written story and a creative take on the Christmas mythology that I haven’t seen done in the exact same way before. Even though the main character’s called ‘Dash’ and meets a girl who is described as being ‘red nosed’ from the cold (which I found a bit heavy handed), it does by some Christmas miracle retain a sense of mystery throughout the story. I genuinely did not know exactly how it was going to play out and was interested in seeing where it went. Its ending did not disappoint

But…this story was not my mug of toffee nut latte. This was meant to be my sweet, festive Christmas review, and I tried; I enjoyed it throughout but the sentimentality just got me in the end.

This is definitely a book that you have to turn your brain off to enjoy. You need to sip your eggnog by the fire, smile, and not question the deeper morality of this story’s world. Do not wonder: ‘if there was a benevolent source of magic with this much power, couldn’t he help the poor in a more meaningful way?’ Or say to yourself: ‘This source of magic could probably wipe out poverty, but what? They just didn’t feel like getting out of their chair? Is this source really benevolent or do they just have a hero complex? Also, I’m pretty sure a scholarship to Howle law school would have been more helpful to Dash than what he got.’ Those questions will ruin the story- and this is why I can’t take my brain anywhere.

Also, I had a couple of issues with the two leads. The female, Merry, was a homeless woman was very ill from an undefined fatal cough.Oh Jesus, that cough.  We never find out what vague illness she was suffering from, but we do know it made her such a brave, tragic little trooper who refused to seek help, but she struggled bravely on and… oh hell, she’s female Tiny Tim and she had Insightpityitus.

Then there’s her relationship with Dash. I did like the relationship between the two characters but it felt uncomfortable when things turned romantic. There was a massive difference in age and experience. Dash was only 30 but was written to feel so much older. He was the older, jaded male while Merry was a much younger, inexperienced ingenue. This very gendered, paternalistic dynamic is one of my pet hates and this felt much more like the relationship between a lonely old man and a stray cat he was trying to tame, rather than a relationship between two equal adults- age difference or otherwise.

To sum up, in spite of everything I’ve written, I must concede it’s a well written short story with a good ending. There is a likeable relationship between the two leads as both Dash and Merry help to defrost each other, but good grief, their relationship would have been so much better if there was no romantic undertone.

If you’re a big fan of the holidays, this is a cute little story for you. But, if you’re a cynical sod like me who can’t have nice things, you will not like this. In order to sort you into the two categories, I have devised a litmus test to see if this story is for you:  If you love stories with this Santa…

Santa Claus

With all the memories of childhood, cookies by the fire and carrots for the reindeer, then read this book. However, If you’re a miserable Scrooge like me and prefer stories with this Santa Claus…

Santa Claus in gunning you down
Santa Claus is gunning you down!

and think a fat man -who uses the promise of toys to bribe small children to sit on his lap and answer personal questions about whether they’re the ‘naughty’ or ‘nice’ kind –  is the one whose name needs to be written on some kind of list, then stay clear of this story. There is no hope for you, or me, because you are too far gone.

RATING: 3 broken orphans looking up at you with big brown eyes while their tears fall pitifully in the snow / 5