Friday 27 November 2015

Reviewed: Snowed in for Christmas by Claire Sandy

Snowed in for Christmas was published by Pan MacMillan on November 19, 2015.

Thanks to Francesca at Pan for sending me a copy of this book to review.

Snowed in for Christmas is the first Claire Sandy book I’ve read – though I do own the others – and it was a witty and engrossing tale of family, secrets and that dream we have of masses of snowfall at Christmas coming true.

For me, this book started off a little slowly. I spent the first seventy-ish pages wondering whether it was going to be one of those books I just couldn’t get on with. Though I loved all the Christmassy description and detail right from the beginning, it was the only thing drawing me to the story ahead but thankfully that all changed around a hundred pages in when I began to connect with some of the characters and really enjoy the story. When I got to that moment, I didn’t once want to put the book down. The story came to life and I was hooked – already plotting out what I would do if I happened to be snowed in for Christmas, and already planning my trip to Tobercree in Ireland to see the Looney family, Rory, Jake, the crying statue and all the other entertaining characters and antics for myself.

A bizarre article Asta is working on sees her reluctantly return, temporarily, to her childhood home in Ireland, taking her sixteen year old daughter Kitty to visit her extended family for the first time. Asta fled Tobercree many years ago and made a new life for herself in England. She’s also sort-of in love with her boss, Conan. But when she returns to Ireland, and the snow falls, things begin to change and as she’s attempting to uncover the mystery relating to her article, she’s also beginning to regret leaving her family behind all those years ago. There’s also the small matter of the outsider in Tobercree, Englishman Jake – could she possibly fall in love all over again in Ireland?

I loved the basis to this story and how everything was happening whilst the snow fell. The author wrapped up that magical Christmas vibe perfectly, whilst delivering a touching and absorbing story at the same time. The little village of Tobercree was such a fun place to set the book in, with vivid characters and a mysterious crying statue that fascinated and uplifted not only the Irish residents but people all across the world. That, along with Jake’s story, were two of my favourite parts of the book, especially because they felt different to the normal plot twists I’ve read in this genre. It was refreshing to see something a little new alongside the romance.

There were so many vibrant, interesting characters in Snowed in for Christmas and come the end of the novel, the author managed to make me feel like I’d seen them all grow and develop across the pages. I felt like I knew far more than simply the main characters and reading this book felt like gaining a few new members to your family – strangers at first, turning into people you know and love. There was just something about the Looney family. They were all very individual people with their own lives and opinions and judgments but when they were on the same page, they were a force to be reckoned with and that’s such an easy thing for any member of a family to identify with. Families come together at Christmas and the spirit between the Looneys, which I wasn’t expecting given how Asta had left them years ago, made me want to gather my own family together for a Christmas where the only arguments are about the person refusing to wear their Christmas cracker hat and the person who ate the last of the pigs in blankets. Even though this story focuses on someone returning to an almost broken family, it was the family Christmas that lifted my spirits whilst reading and made me feel all festive and care-free.

The characters were what brought this story its charm. I loved the mother-daughter bond and dynamics between Asta and Kitty – how Kitty was so feisty yet extremely supportive of her mum and the choices she made. Asta’s sister, cousin and even her best friend back in England all felt bubbly and developed strongly and in actual fact it didn’t matter how many characters there were because they were all multi-dimensional and not the kind of cookie-cutter characters I was half expecting with each new name mentioned. The interaction and dialogue between the characters made this story very funny at times – I definitely found myself giggling away at some of the ridiculous texts and emails Conan was sending Asta, not to mention the way Tobercree responded to the statue every time it cried. Snowed in for Christmas stocked plenty of humour, plenty of warm, emotional moments and a fantastic set of memorable characters. I quickly grew to love this novel and didn’t want it to end.

Please can I find a Jake wrapped up under my Christmas tree this year?

Warm, witty and emotional. A fun-filled festive read.

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