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Christmas with the Chrystals

Christmas with the Chrystals was first published in 1959. It is now out of print.

Story | Thoughts | Editions and Availability | Other Media


Mrs Cornelius has rented Caldecote Castle, in Kent, to entertain her children and grandchildren over Christmas, and she employs Ted and Rosa Chrystal to look after the kitchen.

Mrs Cornelius has been married three times. Virginia, the daughter from her first marriage, has married Tom Oswald, a gardener, and has two children, Alan and Benita. There was a son, James Dawson, by Mrs Cornelius' second marriage: he has died, and his widow, Lalla, and son, Gardiner, live in America. Her third husband now lives in South Africa. From this marriage there is a son, Jan, who also lives in South Africa with his wife, Anna, and their children, Peter, Jane and Rinke. Mrs Cornelius has never seen her son-in-law, her daughers-in-law, nor any of her grandchildren.

Mrs Cornelius is a very cold woman, and the children soon learn that the friendliest place at Caldecote Castle is the kitchen. The Chrystals have decorated it with Christmas cards and holly, and it is a "warm, rich-smelling place, full of atmosphere", unlike the "unlived, characterless" rooms in the rest of the castle. Gradually, the adults also find out about the welcoming atmosphere in the kitchen.


(This section contains "spoilers" for those who have not read the book.)

Christmas with the Chrystals is a fairly simple story about the softening of an old woman's heart. The children do not really emerge as individuals - in such a short book, in-depth character studies of six children, would have been virtually impossible - but Ted and Rose Chrystal, although somewhat stereotypical, are clearly presented, and occupy the heart of the work.

Editions and Availability

UK Editions

Christmas with the Chrystals was first published by Basil Blackwell in 1959.

It was reprinted at least once, in 1960.

It was also included in The Faber Book of Christmas Stories, edited by Sarah and Stephen Corrin in 1984, and reprinted in 1985. This collection appears to have been released in paperback as The Puffin Book of Christmas Stories.

US Editions

There does not seem to have been a US edition of Christmas with the Chrystals.

Out of Print

Christmas with the Chrystals is now out of print, and extremely rare. As at January 2003, I have not been able to find any second hand copies listed by online booksellers.

Other Media

In 1987, Christmas with the Chrystals was included on a Tempo Twins two-cassette set of Christmas stories. It was read by Nicolette McKenzie.


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