Meandering past the book aisle in the supermarket my attention was drawn by the array of festive themed covers of ‘chick lit’ books. I’ve never really noticed a huge amount of Christmas themed books launched around this time before despite the fact that the movie business seems to rake it in, but this year there are masses of them. Seriously, in the average small supermarket section about 60% of the books are these romantic comedy style books. Much more than the ubiquitous celebrity autobiographies that you normally see at this time of year.
The reviews promised ‘bubbly’, ‘sparkling’ writing with ‘unputdownable‘ (I kid you not, that was on the cover of one of the books). They were all adorned with cartoonish drawings of attractive young women with Christmas trees or typical Christmas scenes like snow-covered villages and masses of presents. I couldn’t get hold of a Christmas-themed Mills and Boon, which is a pity, but I picked up what I thought was a cross-section of the rest to test them out and see if I’m better off picking up a book than turning into True Christmas Movie Channel 24+1.
The first book I read was the most promising – Miracle on Regent Street by Ali Harris. The story of an underdog storeroom girl who is unloved by all and decides it’s up to her to transform the fortunes of the ailing department store which is similarly unloved in the lead up to Christmas. Guess what? Along the way she finds love and friendship, and realises that Christmas really is magic after all. It was easily-readable, and the writing moved the plot along without jarring, but it was a predictable affair with little of the charm I’d hoped for. The sort of thing I’d read on a beach, but I wouldn’t want to read about Christmas on a beach.
Film comparison: like those Christmas films that are made for tv with someone like Robson Green in it. Alright, but it’s not exactly Muppets‘ Christmas Carol is it?
The second book I read was Something From Tiffanys by Melissa Hill. A whole book based around the premise that Tiffanys jewellery store is magic. I’ve been there, it’s beautiful, but it’s not enough for a book. The plot is even weaker than the premise, but the writing holds a few twists and turns to keep you reading long past the point you’re fed up of the characters muttering the words ‘that famous blue box’.
Film comparison: a TV advert; but a good one. Like that John Lewis advert where you’re aware they’re manipulating your heartstrings, but you still go ‘aww‘ when he rushes past his presents to get his mum something.
The third book was Comfort and Joy by India Knight. I didn’t realise this was a sequel until after I read it, which annoys me because now if I want to read other things by the same author the first book is ruined. It didn’t say it anywhere on the book. Bad publisher. Otherwise, it was…an odd book. More about the relationships between the family than any actual plot, it focused on the Christmas period over a number of years and glossed over the remaining months (including a marriage breakdown being reduced to a sentence with no explanation). It all seemed very bitty, and the culmination of the story taking place abroad meant it even lost the little Christmas cheer it had (I want Christmas to be snowy and reference mulled wine or eggnog. Always.) I’ve never read anything by India Knight, but it seemed to be of the more ‘ooh I’m a firecracker, look I’m using swearwords and talking about sex for no reason’ end of chick-lit. Again, not massively what I want at Christmas.
Film comparison: The Christmas day special of a soap. Like Eastenders, where someone will die and a family will get blown apart, but hey we put some fairy light on the Queen Vic! Not really Christmassy at all.
The last book I read was Chocolate Wishes by Trisha Ashley. This one promised the most ‘traditional’ Christmas offering – the cover had a small village covered in snow and it had chocolate in the title. The book itself seemed very confused, and read like those stories in People’s Friend where the characters seemed very confused about what era they actually live in (they reference the internet, but otherwise I would’ve said this was a reprint from the 50s. There was also some sort of narrative about religion in there that just made it even more muddled, and the main character was the most unlikeable person I’ve read in a long time.
Film comparison: Like a true life movie, but a really naff one. The ones that don’t even have a child star that’s now grown up in them.
So if I had to choose between books and movies this Christmas based on this cross-section of offerings? I’d choose movies. Then I’d make a big pot of eggnog and break open the celebrity autobiography I’ve got used to on Christmas day.
What are your favourite Christmas books? Is there hope out there? Let us know in the comments.
Don’t forget we’re reading a good Christmas book, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, throughout the rest of the month. Check out more details here and feel free to join us for a Christmas drink on 2nd December