Monday, 5 October 2015

Reviewed: Every Time a Bell Rings by Carmel Harrington







Every Time a Bell Rings will be published by Harper Impulse on October 15, 2015.


Thanks to Carmel for sending me a copy of this book to review.



Carmel Harrington is an author whose books I wholeheartedly adore and so a Christmas book from Carmel was a doubly exciting thing, since festive books are my absolute favourites and should be read all year round, I reckon. Well, though I was expecting great things from Every Time a Bell Rings, I definitely wasn’t expecting it to be as insanely good as it was. The pure enchanting, beautiful content to this story took my breath away. The writing was Carmel Harrington through and through – full of charm and wit, a story mixed with emotion and a more magical side, only this time Carmel’s writing felt more polished and finer than ever. Beyond Grace’s Rainbow, Carmel’s debut, struck with me personally for the emotional theme that played out. Carmel’s second book, The Life You Left, was compelling and wonderful and one I equally loved. But Every Time a Bell Rings showcased everything I love about this author’s writing, only so much bigger and better than before.

This book is the story of Belle and Jim, two characters I almost instantly fell for. Before I can get into why, I have to mention the beautiful and intelligent structure to this novel. Every Time a Bell Rings is told in three parts – the first in 1988, when Belle is a child, the second moves to 2005 and the third moves to 2013. So we get to see, in depth, three big stages of Belle’s life and let me tell you, she has lived a heart-breaking life but what I loved about Belle was her strength and courage and how despite everything, despite how she saw herself, she kept on battling away. We really get to learn so much about Belle’s character and I found it impossible not to warm to her, and seeing the whole story of her life made me less likely to judge her at future stages in the book. I felt so connected to her character, like I was thinking of her as a friend rather than a name in a novel, and the structure helped that massively. I’m not always good with large switches in time in books because I feel like we’re always going to be missing the development between the years, in character and in plot, but not here – Carmel worked this effortlessly.

I don’t want to give too much away, and so it’s hard to cover the story a lot, but briefly. Belle and Jim, in 2013, are foster parents. To me, they were incredible foster parents (as are most, who I have huge respect for). They both treat their foster children so brilliantly – it was uplifting to see how they had so much care for these children but were also accepting of who they were as young adults and wanted to help them on their way, rather than mould them into different people. Bobby was probably my favourite. Lauren is a foster child hugely close to the hearts of Belle and Jim and they’re struggling to come to terms with her mother being back in her life. But worse things are to come as an accident sees Belle having to come to terms with no Jim as well…

Having seen the build-up of Belle and Jim’s lives to the present day moment, my heart was practically in my mouth. This book was so emotional, I was a wreck one minute, smiling the next, broken down with more heart-break and so on. The emotions never stopped. Carmel is the queen of emotional fiction, seriously, and though you hope for that happy ending, you’re never quite fully sure. I loved reading about Jim and Belle’s relationship. From seeing them as children, reaching out to each other as friends, to falling in love, was pretty powerful and wholesomely romantic. Part one of this novel really reached out to me and seeing all the twists and turns of being in foster care really drew me to both their characters and made me have almost a sense of pride at how far they had come when we reached part three. But the twists never stopped and when the things brought up in the synopsis really came into play, there was no separating me from the book.

In truth, Every Time a Bell Rings never left my side once, anyway. I could talk about this book all week long so I’m trying to stop discussing the main plot. I do feel I have to point out a few things though – firstly just how much I bloody loved this book! I haven’t stopped raving about it since I finished it, I won’t stop raving about it at all. It’s a true festive must-read but actually, a must-read all year long. Compelling, inspiring and with an authentic outlook on happiness and all the emotions leading up to that stage. Another thing I loved was the character development. When Belle is a child, she is thrown through the foster care system and my heart reached out for her. When she reaches the home of Tess, she’s mute, refusing to talk, only with her doll Dee-Dee. The way Tess treat Belle brought a tear to my eye and I adored Tess’s character, but what I liked the most is how she wasn’t made into a ‘perfect’ character. She had her flaws, as did Belle and Jim in a similar stage later on in the novel. Just because they played a beautiful, appreciated role in life didn’t mean we were forced to think they were perfect, that other people couldn’t share similar traits of loyalty and kindness. Carmel really explored the good side to everyone, which made this book feel more realistic and genuine to me.

Every Time a Bell Rings was inspired by the film It’s A Wonderful Life. I hadn’t seen the film before reading the book, though I knew it was a family favourite and watched it straight afterwards. How Carmel was inspired is so evident and I felt like she completely did it justice – I loved all the special touches which reminded me of moments I’d read in the book and vice versa. So I would definitely recommend watching the film at around about the same time you read the book too – because both are perfect ways to spend a few hours. The story presented in Every Time a Bell Rings is stunning and heartfelt. Though it is very emotional, it’s not overwhelmingly so and there were many moments that made me smile. Most of all, this is a book that feels impossible to forget. The story made a huge impression on me and it’s a memorable, moving and thoroughly fantastic festive novel. Also by far one of my very favourite books of the year.


A wonderfully emotional, incredible book. Would give more than five stars if I could!





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