I am a big fan of festive reads … correction! I am a MASSIVE fan of festive reads. Like, borderline obsessed. One of my favourite things to do as December creeps closer is to stock up on Christmassy reads that I can enjoy, wrapped up in a festive duvet with a large mug of hot chocolate. Recently, whilst visiting a friend in Canterbury, I picked up A Gift in December by Jenny Gladwell. And ~ boy! ~ am I glad that I did. This quick but adorable reads has kept me cozy in these colder evenings, and everytime I have picked it up I have simply loved it.
The book follows Jane, a successful journalist, who has just finished an incredibly important exposé, which both cemented her career and caused her boyfriend (and his fragile ego) to disappear from her life. Feeling suitably low and disappointed, the idea of getting wrapped up in festive frolics is the last thing she wants to do. But, as her boss decides that she simply must go to Norway to cover the tree being selected, chopped down, and set back to London in a time-honoured tradition, Jane must pack away her grinchlike personality in a small cabin size suitcase and board the plane. Once in Norway, and surrounded by other writers, Jane uncovers a war time mystery of two lovers separated and estranged from each other. Trusted with a collection of intimate – and unanswered – war time letters, Jane tries to find out what really happened in those snowy, war time years in a small, isolated island in Norway.
I’m not sure my synopsis did this cracking little read justice but I have tried my best! Like with every book I have read, I want to pour my heart out and tell you every minute detail of the novel, but I am trying very hard to restrain myself so to not spoil this for you. I cannot recommend this book enough and am already trying to push it on everyone I know. The warmth I felt from this book was idyllic and I honestly think it is the tonic everyone needs this winter.
I think what made this book so perfect was the wonderful balance between the romance and the mystery plot. As it almost essential with every festive read, the romance plot is highly cliched and you can spot the match from far away. However, that didn’t make it any less delightful, and I spent the whole time waiting for the inevitable coupling to occur. But despite this, the fact that this is interweaved with the war time mystery made the novel amazing. I kept tearing through every page, eager to find the answer to each narrative and it was perfect. The wrapping up of both story lines was wonderfully done, not rushed or left half finished as I often find with this genre. The story was propelly developed and as I closed the final page, I felt immensly satisfied. I also loved finding out an area of history that I did not know about previously, the tradition of Norway gifting the tree for Trafalgar Square emerging from an alliance and friendship that came out of the chaos of WW2. I am definitely going to research this story more and absolutely adored discovering this nugget of the past with Jane.
Another fault I often find with festive reads is that the characters feel incredibly 2D and undeveloped. This often feel like they could have been lift from any other book and shoved forceably into this narrative and it can be incredibly jarring. However, this is completely not the case with this book! Gladwell creates wonderfully diverse characters so that even the characters you recognise – i.e. the egotistical z-celebrity, the instagram blogger, and even the scrooge-like main character – have complexities and intricacies that make them refreshing and engaging. Even the ‘villian’ of the novel – if you can have a villian in a festive read – is given a sympathic angle so that you cannot help but feel sorry for him. I loved this and it made the book so much more intriguing, as I became desperate to know all about them. Everytime I picked them up, I could wait to find out more and delve into their lives.
I do not think I can talk about this wonderful book without discussing the setting. The magical and beautiful Norwiegan setting is so enticing that you feel as though are there. Everytime the group moved to a new location, I was so amazed with how devastatingly gorgeous each setting seemed, and it has made me desperate to visit Norway for myself. Gladwell’s writing is so exquisite that I just wanted to submerge myself within her narrative and never leave. I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for her other reads.
I’m not sure if I’ve emphasised this enough but I ADORED this read. You seriously need to check it out. I rated it five stars and if I could have given it more I would have. As I’ve said, I love festive reads, so I’d love to know which festive reads you would recommend.