Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, November 9, 2018


Star Over Bethlehem and Other Stories by Agatha Christie Mallowan (1965)

Halloween and Election Day are both over, so it is kosher for me to post about a Christmas/Christian-themed book, although when I was a kid Christmas season never started until after Thanksgiving.  (But then, in those by-gone years, Black Friday and Cyber Monday did not exist and we did not celebrate the father if our country with mattress sales -- indeed, Washington and Lincoln had separate holidays dedicated to them.  As Bill Crider famously and repeatedly said, "I miss the old days.")

We press on to the book in question.  In order to differentiate from her murder mysteries, Ms. Christie published this one under her married name...well, second married name, something she had done only once before and that with her account of joining her husband on archaeological digs, Come Tell Me How You Live.  Because of its content, its length (a mere 79 pages), and the fact that it was not published under the Christie name, Star Over Bethelem is perhaps the author's rarest collection, although there was a trade paperback edition from Berkley Books in 1991.  The book has not been reprinted in this country during this century.  (It fared better in England; in 2008 it was released in an omnibus that contained two other rare Christie titles, The Road of Dreams and Poems.)

Star Over Bethlehem contains six stories and five poems:

  • A Greeting (poem)
  • Star Over Bethlehem (in which the virgin Mary is tested by an angel shortly after the birth of Jesus)
  • A Wreath for Christmas (poem)
  • The Naughty Donkey (in which a recalcitrant donkey sees the light in a certain Bethlehem stable)
  • Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh (poem)
  • The Water Bus (in which Mrs. Hargreaves learns that she actually likes people after an encounter with a heavenly figure)
  • In the Cool of the Evening (in which a boy finds a mutant animal [half frog/ half bird, perhaps] and makes a special friend in his garden)
  • Jenny by the Sky (poem)
  • Promotion in the Highest (in which fourteen saints walk the earth again and give modern twists to their powers)
  • The Saints of God (poem)
  • The Island (in which Mary gives comfort in times of doubt)

A slight collection, best received by Christie purists and the curious perhaps, but an interesting one.  Some of the stories are very clever, imaginative, and entertaining, and sometimes chrisite's christian message comes across as heavy-handed.  All in all, I'm glad I read it.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds a bit like how I felt when reading Theodore Sturgeon's last novel GODBODY...some great aspects constantly fighting with the author's self-indulgence. But I was also glad to be able to read it.