A Season to Remember by Sheila O'Flanagan

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A Season to Remember by Sheila O'Flanagan

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: Christmas time and a clutch of characters book themselves in to the rather swish and beautifully-named Sugar Loaf Lodge. We then meet the characters in more detail and discover their various and varied reasons for choosing not to be 'at home' for Christmas Day.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 320 Date: October 2010
Publisher: Headline Review
ISBN: 978-0755375158

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We first meet the Lodge owners, a likable couple. They find running their upmarket country house type hotel both exhilarating and exhausting. The novel is bang up to date so O'Flanagan gets in the whole recession/banker-bashing thing early on. As the festive season looms, the unthinkable has happened. Empty rooms. They're not used to empty rooms, at any time of the year. Normally the Lodge is a full house. But then a slow and steady trickle starts as our characters book in - and the story starts proper, so to speak.

Each chapter is devoted to a character, or a particular couple or family and O'Flanagan gives various Irish landmarks a bit of a make-over in the shape of room names. Each is given a different name, from the nicely unpronounceable Kilmashogue and Slieveman to the more reader-friendly War Hill. One of the stories concerns a young woman madly in love - with a married man. And yes, I know we've heard it all so many times before. He stays at home and gets to play 'dad' while she's all dolled up to the nines waiting impatiently in some secret meeting place. In this scenario it's the Lodge. All the usual emotions are played out here within a festive context. The female character says with a lump in her throat ... I wished that Santa Claus was real, and that he could bring you the person you loved for Christmas.

We also meet an older, rather staid couple. Grown-up children etc and they're now at a bit of a loss and also at a crossroads in their lives, especially Bridget, the mother. Throughout their long married life they've basically plodded along, saving hard for those little luxuries to make life a little sweeter. So what, you may very well be asking, are they doing throwing good money away on a swanky hotel break. It's a gentle story as we gradually learn about the couple's past. And once again, it's bang up to date with smatterings of redundancies, down-sizing and firms making difficult decisions.

You could say that most of the usual suspects are here in this novel. The young marrieds, desperate to escape the 'duty' of Christmas Day at the in-laws. Singles not wanting their ever-so-happily-married siblings to ask them over for Christmas out of pity. O'Flanagan gives us some of their hopes and dreams. And also their fears. I liked her easy, conversational style as if chatting over the garden fence with your neighbour.

Some stories worked better than others. On a slight negative, I felt that in the chapter Carrigvore there's quite a handful of names to grapple with early on. By the time you've figured out who's who, the story's ended. The odd line here and there bordered on Mills and Boon in sentimentality and sugary language. But they're only tiny niggles.

The integration of various characters from one story to another, albeit just a suggestion, a phrase here or there, was a deft touch. Even allowing for all those negative thoughts swirling around in this book, it's still a nice, cosy read. As cosy as a log fire. This novel would be a good choice for all those wintry nights still to come. I didn't take it too seriously. It slipped through my consciousness like a glass of mulled wine.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this appeals try Last Christmas by Julia Williams.

Buy A Season to Remember by Sheila O'Flanagan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Season to Remember by Sheila O'Flanagan at Amazon.co.uk

Buy A Season to Remember by Sheila O'Flanagan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Season to Remember by Sheila O'Flanagan at Amazon.com.


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