I was lucky enough to win a copy of Rachel Joyce’s A Snow Garden in a Twitter giveaway from Transworld Books. I was especially pleased as I have read all the author’s previous novels and loved them. This collection of short stories set over a couple of weeks at the end of the year did not disappoint. There are seven stories in all, loosely connected with some characters appearing in more than one story or being referred to, for example, by sending a Christmas card to the characters in the next story. We meet, among others, a stressed mother coping with the sudden breakdown of her relationship, a father spending the days after Christmas with his sons and desperately hoping for the snow he’s promised them, a very famous singer going back to celebrate Christmas with his family (albeit a few days late!) and a son unexpectedly spending time on New Year’s Eve with his father from whom he has become rather distant. Throughout all the stories, there is a recurring image of a girl in a red coat and her significance is revealed in the final story.
My favourite story was ‘Christmas Day at the Airport’. All the flights have been delayed leading to lots of very grumpy stranded passengers. Magda is heavily pregnant and really shouldn’t be travelling but tickets were cheap and her partner needed to get home to sign some legal documents. This story is a twist on the Nativity and the time comes for the baby to be born. All the characters from the familiar Nativity story are there, just not quite how you might expect!
Rachel Joyce has written a touching collection of stories looking deep into different kinds of relationships and showing that though they might not be perfect, our relationships with other people are what matter most. The stories at around 30-40 pages each are perfect to enjoy if you get a spare half hour from the Christmas madness. This small extract from the final story sums up that madness of Christmas but also the reason to celebrate.
“For a moment it seemed strange to Oliver that people went through Christmas like this every year, putting up trees and coloured lights that would only be taken down again, and visiting people they ignored for the rest of the year, and spending money they didn’t have, and eating food they’d otherwise avoid. And then he thought, so what? It was only as mad as planting twenty trees. And where was the madness in that, when you thought about it. Life was a thing to celebrate.”
My thanks to Alison Barrow at Transworld Books for my prize copy of A Snow Garden. This edition was published by Black Swan in November 2016 and you can order a copy online here: A Snow Garden
From the back of the book
A Faraway Smell of Lemon: The School Term has ended. It is almost Christmas but Binny, out last-minute shopping couldn’t feel less like wishing glad tidings to all men. Ducking out of the rain she finds herself in the sort of shop she would never normally visit.
The Marriage Manual: Christmas Eve. Two parents endeavour to construct their son’s Christmas present from a DIY kit and in the process find themselves deconstructing their marriage.
Christmas at the Airport: A glitch in the system, travellers stranded and all sorts of lives colliding in the face of a sudden birth…
The Boxing Day Ball: Maureen has never been out with the local girls before. Who knew that a disco in the Village Hall could be life-changing?
A Snow Garden: Two little boys, dumped with their divorced father for his share of the Christmas holidays and none of them with a clue how to enjoy it.
I’ll Be Home for Christmas The most famous boy in the world comes home hoping to escape the madness with a normal family Christmas.
Trees: As if Christmas wasn’t wearing enough, now his elderly parent is asking for a hole in the ground … Father and son break old habits and plant a tree to mark the start of the new year.