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Christmas Bells by Jennifer Chiaverini
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Christmas Bells (2015)

by Jennifer Chiaverini

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Christmas bells by Chiaverini, Jennifer
Have read many of the author's other quilting works. This one starts out with Sophia music program and there is no money and it's suffering from budget cuts and her underprivileged students.
She leads the choir into the practices by a 1863 poem from Longfellow.
Story goes back in time with alternating chapters from 1860 to the present as we learn the details of the time when the poem was written.
The past of Sophia comes to light also so we can understand why she didn't end up in Chicago...
Book is like having two different stories told and how they entwine with one another.
I received this book from National Library Service for my BARD (Braille Audio Reading Device). ( )
  jbarr5 | Jun 15, 2016 |
I'm often disappointed in Christmas themed books but Christmas Bells]is a welcome exception. There are two story lines, one contemporary and one historical that takes place between 1860 and 1864. The historical story is about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and why he wrote the poem I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day in 1863. In the contemporary storyline a children's choir is practicing and performing the poem (it was set to music in 1872) for Christmas Eve mass. There are troubled characters at the rehersals including the choir director who has been told she will lose her paying teaching job due to budget cuts, the pianist who is secretly in love with her, the mother of two children in the choir whose husband has become lost in Afghanistan, a newly widowed wife of a popular Senator, and a young priest who has become estranged from his brother. Chiaverini brings all of these characters together and their problems to resolution in a satisfying way. In the historical storyline Longfellow is grieving due to the death of his wife, and the fact that his eldest but young son has joined the army and gone to war. The fact that the Civil War plays a major part in the historical story causes it to be more serious than the contempory, but it ends on a note of hope, for both Longfellow's family and his country. ( )
  clue | Dec 21, 2015 |
The author interweaves stories from two time periods in Cambridge, Massachusetts, connected by the poem “Christmas Bells,” written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Christmas Day in 1863. The poem was first set to music in 1872, and later arranged with other melodies and recorded multiple times.

The story from the past is arranged chronologically from December 1860 to December 1864 and records the historical circumstances that led to Longfellow’s creation of the famous poem.

The story in the present centers around a number of characters involved directly or tangentially with preparations for the annual Christmas choir production at St. Margaret’s Church in Cambridge. It is divided by narrators in a “Canterbury Tales” fashion: there is “The Music Teacher’s Tale,” “The Widow’s Tale,” “The Priest’s Tale,” and so on. More than occasionally the narrators reflect on the very same events, and the author repeats the exact same dialogue, a rather interesting decision.

I found the story of Longfellow and his family to be the most absorbing; I hadn’t known Longfellow was so well-known in his own time - “a living icon,” according to the National Park Service. The contemporary story was a bit predictable, a feature which is only expected (and even desired!) with Christmas stories. (The author even managed to incorporate another famous Christmas story, “The Gift of the Magi,” into this one.)

The author’s research on the Longfellow family was impressive; I only noted one mistake: Robert Lincoln, the president’s eldest son, was referred to as “Todd Lincoln.” His middle name was Todd, but he was known as Robert. (Robert did indeed have a nickname given to him by the newspapers, but it was not Todd; rather it was “Bob, the Prince of Rails,” a play on “Prince of Wales” and because his father had campaigned as "The Railsplitter.”)

Evaluation: What would a Christmas book be without causing one to shed a few tears at the end? This one doesn’t disappoint in that aspect. Keep some tissues handy and be prepared to have carols running through your head throughout your reading! ( )
  nbmars | Dec 13, 2015 |
Wonderful! I did not know the story of this poem, but very poignant what with the world in such turmoil. ( )
  lucaslibrary | Dec 6, 2015 |
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The two different timelines make a fascinating story and the author does a wonderful job of bringing both to life. It is an enjoyable read that I highly recommend. ( )
  duelalias | Dec 5, 2015 |
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Epigraph
Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Dedication
To Marty, Nicholas, and Michael, who make every Christmas merrier.
First words
Only the most jaded of critics would deny that the Winter Holiday Concert had been an artistic triumph,...
Quotations
God is not dead,,, nor doth He sleep
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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