I've just finished reading this book which I really enjoyed and thought I'd do a quick review. I remember it coming out a few years ago and liked the sound of it, but I rarely buy new books unless they are bought for me as presents for Christmas and birthdays.
I think I bought this one from a charity shop or jumble sale (it was probably someone else's Christmas present) and it has sat in my book pile for at least a year. I meant to read it last Christmas as it has a Christmas theme running through it, but never got around to it, so this Christmas I was determined to pick it up and read it.
I've read the odd non-fiction book by India Knight who is a journalist, and writes a column in the Sunday Times. Her style of writing is intelligent and witty, but this is the first novel of hers I've actually read.
The book begins with her main character out shopping on Oxford Street just before Christmas whereby she decides to stop off in a hotel bar for a drink, to indulge herself for once. She meets a handsome stranger who comes to sit by her. She's married (currently to her second husband), has three children (two from her first, one from her second marriage), and although reasonably happy, when she returns home and later has guests around for the evening, everything promptly starts to unravel.
The book itself is split into three consecutive Christmases. This the first. By the second, she has separated from her second husband and is seeing the man she met in the hotel bar, though not in any serious way. This Christmas her blended family once again gets together at Christmas, hosted by herself once again, and the focus is more about her past, her childhood and Christmases past whereby you get to see more of how the personality and character of the book's main character is formed.
This book is essentially a novel about blended families. It is interesting, warm and promotes the idea that with a bit of good sense and careful thought, families can ride the storm of divorce and separation and still produce well adjusted children that are sane and happy and able to move on and enjoy life.
In the final Christmas of the book, the main character rings the changes at Christmas and organises a Christmas abroad in Morocco, for herself and her extended/blended family. (I personally found this chapter interesting as we went to Morocco just after Christmas a couple of years ago, so I could relate to it in that sense.) This particular Christmas, things aren't going quite so smoothly with her new relationship, but she is determined to enjoy her first Christmas abroad whereby not having to cook for everyone allows her to relax and take a long hard look around her at the special people in her life and all she has that is positive.
This is a good book, if difficult to read at times, as relationship difficulties are hard to face up to, especially at Christmas and negotiating the sensibilities of others can be hard to do, but negotiate them she does, in a very grown up way, whilst managing to endear all or most of the characters to you.
I'm pleased I finally read it and look forward to reading a couple of other books I have waiting by the same author.