Last Christmas by Julia Williams

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Last Christmas by Julia Williams

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jo Heffer
Reviewed by Jo Heffer
Summary: Catherine, Noel, Marianne and Gabriel all have good reason to dread Christmas especially when they each think back to what happened last year. Twelve months later things look no better but you never know - could there be just a glimmer of festive cheer? This immensely readable book describes both the stresses and joys of Christmas so very well.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: October 2009
Publisher: Avon
ISBN: 978-1847560865

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With Christmas fast approaching, what better way of getting in the spirit of things than by reading this excellent book that captures the joys and stresses of the festive season so well? The reader follows four different people – Catherine Tinsall and her husband Noel, Marianne Moore and Gabriel North. Each of these characters have their own reasons for not really looking forward to Christmas (mainly because of the experience of last Christmas) and these reasons slowly become apparent to the reader as the story progresses.

The story moves between London where Catherine and Noel are based and the delightful village of Hope Christmas where we meet Marianne and Gabriel. Although each character does have his or her own story to follow, they do seem to pair off due to their locations and the stories do start to overlap. Hope Christmas comes across as the perfect country village and includes many interesting and colourful inhabitants. Its cosy community feel also provides a stark contrast to the lonely and busy lives led by the London couple.

This was a very enjoyable book that had all the right ingredients for an absorbing read. These included heartache, romance, deceit and a nasty villain that you desperately hoped would receive his come-uppance! All four main characters were very believable and I liked all of them for different reasons. They each had a certain vulnerability and they had problems that they had trouble sharing. I liked the way that as the story progressed they were able to start resolving these. I also enjoyed the way that relationships were developed throughout the book and the way all the characters came together at the end.

Although part of the book is set in a cosy country village, there is also a modern feel to this book with references to the credit crunch and the possible construction of an eco village. When Catherine's mother becomes seriously ill, the book also covers the issue of dementia very sensitively.

Each chapter devotes small sections to each character's story. At first I found this a little confusing and also frustrating as I was just getting absorbed in one storyline and it all changed. I did think that I would prefer that the author had devoted entire chapters to the different stories, but as I continued reading this actually bothered me less and I could appreciate why the different stories were virtually overlapping.

The stories take place over the course of one year and moves between the present and the past quite effortlessly. There were flashbacks taking us back to the four days that ran up to the previous Christmas which were days that had a devastating impact on all four characters. This was cleverly done and helped to keep the reader guessing about what might have happened. I liked this form of storytelling very much.

Also, if the title of this book reminds you of a big Christmas hit for a certain eighties duo, you won't fail to notice that certain lines from that song appear as titles for the different parts in the book. Part one is called 'I gave you my heart'; part two is entitled 'you gave it away', and so on. This brought back so many memories that I almost found myself humming the tune as I was reading!

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

If this book appeals, you might also enjoy Rose Petal Soup by Sarah Harrison.

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Buy Last Christmas by Julia Williams at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Last Christmas by Julia Williams at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Last Christmas by Julia Williams at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Last Christmas by Julia Williams at


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