All About Emily is a delightful holiday confection by Connie Willis. You can read it on your phone while you wait in line at the mall. You can read it during a quick break between wrapping presents, or in the airport, or while hiding in the back room during a family get together NOT THAT I’VE EVER DONE THAT. It’s a quick, light read that has unexpected twists and is moving without being saccharine.
In All About Emily, an actress, Claire, who is rapidly reaching “a certain age” is asked to meet with a young woman (the niece of a famous scientist) for a publicity shoot. This woman, Eve, is a huge fan of Claire’s. But Eve has a secret – and it’s not that she wants to take over Claire’s career. I don’t want to give anything away so I’ll keep this vague, but it involves dreams and humanity and what we will do to attain them and to help others attain them.
I love this novella because it doesn’t feel cut off, like many novellas do. It tells a whole story. And I relax reading it, because it’s short. December is not a month in which I want to tackle, say, all the books in the Game of Thrones series. I’m busy. But I still need to read every spare second, because, well, reading is what I do. So this story keeps me happy and entertained and refreshed without feeling like a burden. Like Connie Willis’s other comedic stories, this one is fun, as trope-savvy Claire tries to figure out which story she might be in (she thinks at first that it’s All About Eve, but our Eve has no desire to be an actress). There’s a rich feeling of the theatrical world, and fun allusions to it being slightly futuristic.
Above all, the story is deeply optimistic. It’s a story about people at their best. It would have been so easy to make this story tragic or cynical, and at points it looks like that’s where we’re headed. But ultimately people come together in a not too sappy, but very touching, Christmas miracle. It’s not a super miracle. It doesn’t fix everything. But it gives hope that people can be decent and that we all have dreams and hopes and will help each other achieve them.