==Synopsis of the book:==
It is getting towards Christmas and Alison Dunwoody is feeling down. After many years hard work in Financial Management she is out of work. Just another casualty of the recession. As a result New York seems of have lost some of its gloss for her and she has to sub-let her apartments moving into a much smaller one. However her mood improves when she meets JJ a fellow Irishman living on the third floor of her building. But she knows finding a job is going to be tough given the financial meltdown.
Alison's older sister Olivia has a very different lifestyle. She has never left Dublin and lives close to her parents with a husband and three children. And where as Alison has been focused on her career, Olivia must juggle her family with a part time job and a thousand other chores. She envies her sister's lifestyle especially as none of the family are aware that she has recently lost her job and money will be a lot tighter now for her.
Both sisters have been working together to arrange a 70th Birthday party for their mother Esther. Alison is unsure whether she really wants to come home for this and Christmas especially as she has recently met JJ and needs to find a job, but she knows she must.
==My opinion of the novel:==
In the past few months I have tried various 'Chic Lits' and generally enjoyed them, however this for me was a disappointing read and not one I enjoyed or felt I got anything out of. Maybe for me it was one chic lit too far as I found it while very quick and easy to read I felt that nothing of interest really happened in the story and it was all too predictable. As a rule I like thrillers and crime stories but I have tried more and more fiction stories of late and sadly for me anyway this was one of the poorer ones I have tried.
Before I purchased this book I had never read a novel by this author. Which to a certain degree might explain why I did not enjoy the story. As I find it takes me a while to get used to a new author's writing style, generally a book or two. Patricia Scanlan was a Librarian before she turned her hand to writing full time. Not only that she is a highly successful writer and had written 16 books and is a number one best seller. This story I am reviewing here is none of her latest stories have been first published in 2009.
I think that Scanlan being a number one best-seller author and my opinion of this book goes to show that either I have no idea about quality of these types or books or every author at some time or another can produce an average piece of fiction. I would like to think in this case it is the latter but I am not sure about this! As I am sure many fans of the author would argue the case for this author and I am only one dissenting voice in the wilderness. But this is my opinion and thank goodness we all have different ones.
I picked this book up at a jumble sale recently and while it would not be my first choice of style of book, these days I read anything I can get my hands on. It cost me just 50p and I was prepared to take that small gamble on it. When I looked at the cover of the book and read the title I liked the idea of someone returning for Christmas and as on my copy it had a woman with presents heading towards a house I took it would be mainly written about her.
So I flipped the book over to see what the summary had to tell me about it. This was a fair size and it focused on the two sisters Alison and Olivia and their contrasting lifestyles. It sounded quite interesting but in hindsight I think it gave to much of the story away. I liked the concepts in the summary and expected because of the girl's different lives fireworks between them should they clash over anything.
The story I found quite easy to get into as it immediately focused on Alison and her struggle coming to terms with losing her job. I immediately felt for her and because there is always so much news on financial meltdown and suffering because of the recession I found I was interested in her and how she would deal with it. She seemed very vulnerable and after years of working very hard to achieve a good salary and job it all seemed very hard on her.
The next chapter focused on Olivia and her demanding life as a mother and working parent. You could see from this how different the two girls were and how Olivia was always on hand to help all the family left in Dublin and how this could be a cause of irritation for her when she considered her sisters care free life in America.
The story then flitted between the sisters and their mother Esther. Which while I found worked well, it would have been good to have the men in the family more involved not only in the story but sharing their views and opinions as the ladies did. I found I was still enjoying the story but it was getting to the stage when instead of all the nice happy things that were happening I expected the author to throw in some twists and unexpected events into the story.
This I do not feel every happened. I felt the story slowly meandered alone without really alighting my interest with a new development or a twist I had not seen coming. It all felt a little to gentle and predictable for me. And while I am not asking for a murder for example I would have liked a little more action or adventure to keep me entertained. I kept expecting something clever or fascinating to happen but it never did.
But, that is not to say that it wasn't a well written story. For me it just lacked substance. It was full of emotions and insight into the various female characters view on what was happening. Which is good and fine but I felt I needed more happening that the reader had not seen coming. I expected the conclusion would solve my hunger but I felt that let me down as much as the rest of the story did and ultimately left me feeling disappointed.
The stories lead characters were Alison and Olivia. I thought both were very good and easy to relate to, although I was surprised given Alison's work ethic that she was not a slightly harder character. The author really put their thoughts and opinions in such a way you could understand exactly how they felt and made them seem real as a result. What was so good was their contrasts but beneath it all they were not so different after all. I particularly enjoyed when they got together and they expressed how they both felt about what was happening and their family. Although for me as a male reader it did not work as well as I would have liked and it would have been more interesting had it been a brother and a sister.
For me at least the book was nice and short, which meant because it was quite an easy read I had done it in no time at all. I really felt that nothing tangerable happened and I could have learnt nearly as much by just reading the summary of the story on the back page of the book, totally unfair I know but that's how I felt after reading this. I do not think in all honesty I will being trying another from this author as for me it is once bitten twice shy.
I do not feel this is a chic lit that I can recommend. For me it was a disappointing story in which I felt nothing really happened. I kept expecting something different and exciting to happen but it never re-materialised. It was disappointing because I liked the idea behind the story and with two very contrasting sisters I expected things to happen between and around them.
Price: 5.24 New at Amazon
Publisher: Transworld Ireland
Year first published: 2009
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published on both Ciao and Dooyoo under my user name.
© CPTDANIELS December 2012.
I have been a huge fan of Patricia Scanlan for a few years now, and although I have been slightly disappointed with her last few offerings when I noticed that she was releasing a festive book Coming Home for Christmas last year, it was immediately added to my Christmas List. Luckily my mother in law kindly treated me to this one although I have not long got around to reading it.
Coming Home for Christmas is a story about families and sisterhood. Alison is a high flying financial whizz, living the high life in New York. However when the credit crunch hits she finds herself jobless and swapping her posh apartment for a studio. Due to return to Ireland for her Mum's 70th Birthday party she impulsively decides to stay for christmas, although her pride stops her telling them what has happened. Olivia has stayed in Ireland. Married to her childhood sweetheart with three children, she spends her days frantically running around after her family. She envies Alison's free and easy life. Can the two sisters resolve their differences when Alison comes home for Christmas....
I really enjoyed Coming Home for Christmas, and felt this was a return to form for Patricia Scanlan. I think she has a real flair for characterisation and this book is a great example of this. Although Olivia and Alison are very different they both come across as likeable. I felt I could really relate to Olivia as I am the homebody of the family, and I felt the sisterly rivalry between the two was realistic and not overplayed. All the mior characters were well written, I loved Liam and Ester Dunwoody, Alison and Olivia's parents - Esther is warm and always cooking and conjured up a picture of my nan when I was younger, wheras Liam was a bit more gruff and set in his ways but obviously adores his family - they make a lovely couple. Olivia's children were also well written, a whirlwind of excitement about the party, Christmas and getting their hands on Auntie Alison's make up!
My only slight critcism of the book is the ending felt a bit rushed - it is only a short book and it moved along at quite a gentle pace and then it just seemed to stop. Not a great deal happens in this book, which is not a problem for me but I can see it putting some readers off. It is like looking in on a family at Christmas and observing the way they interact rather than being a book where lots of events happen, and I think this may be why it was difficult to end - I wanted to carry on watching and see what happens!
The book is only 288 pages long so is easy to get through in one sitting. I read it in the middle of February so although it is set at Christmas, it was not such an important theme that it felt strange reading it outside of the festive season. Available in paperback from Amazon for £4.46 delivered.
I have found it hard to get into the Christmas spirit over the last few years, so this year I am trying to make an extra special effort!!
Saturday trip to the library found me hunting the shelves for Christmas looking books! I came across Patricia Scanlan Coming Home which had a Christmas look to it and so was added to my bundle!
Patricia Scanlan is a new author to me so I was unsure what to expect other than a Christmas themed book!!
Meet Alison and Olivia, two sisters who are like chalk and cheese. Alison our main character is living the life in America but all is about to change as she finds herself jobless and has no option but to leave her flat and rent her friend's small studio and survive off of her hard earned savings. She doesn't want to worry her family back home so she tries to keep it a secret.
Olivia is a mum of three, who is trying to look after everyone back in Ireland whilst her sister is having an easy life (or so she thinks!!) A surprise 70th birthday is bringing the family together which will mean they get to spend Christmas together for the first time in years.
The first thing I will say about this book is that it is not really a Christmas type of book there is one chapter which is Christmassy and that is it.
It is a very easy and quick read, I read this on the train to Bournemouth in one go!
It has not got a very strong storyline which is a shame as the main character Alison you cannot help but warm to her which I always find is usually one of the key parts of a great book.
I feel the ending of the book was rushed and also was not wrapped up. I had to check the page numbers to make sure they had not fallen out as the book seemed to just stop. Just as we are starting to get to know the love interest, JJ, in the book and are starting to enjoy his character the book just ends.
I would recommend this to you if you are looking for an easy, quick read but I would just say not to have to high expectations when it comes to the storyline.
I hadn't read any of Scanlan's books before, but they were recommended to me as being a mature type of chic lit, which was a description I had to investigate!
This book follows two sisters, who lead very different lives. Alison is the ambitious, high flying sister who leads a brilliant life in America. Or so everyone thinks. Her career has collapsed in the recession, and she can longer afford her gorgeous house and extravagant lifestyle. But she can't quite bring herself to tell her family and friends, either.
Olivia is much more homely, and is trying to balance having a successful career, a happy family and organizing Christmas and her mums 70th birthday. While she loves her family, and her job, Olivia resents Alison for having such a exciting, fun life, and dreams about escaping to New York herself.
It's the perfect excuse for Alison to come clean and go home for good when Olivia invites her to the party, but Alison has just spotted a very sexy next door neighbour, who invites her for some 'no strings' fun. And she can't resist...
The ending isn't as predictable as I thought it was going to be, and the book does through some light on the 'hidden' parts of family life, and I found myself willing Olivia to stop worrying about practicalities and actually enjoy herself for a while. The characters are interesting and realistic, and the story runs smoothly to make it very easy reading.
Alison Dunwoody thought she had it all - a great job, good salary and a great life in New York City. But when the recession hits, Alison is shocked to find that she's lost her job. She's too embarassed to tell her family, and instead decides to fly home to Ireland and have Christmas with her parents, sister and 3 gorgeous nieces. Alison loves the feeling of being back home, but misses her new friend Jack from New York - he knows about her job loss and she can confide in him. Will Alison be able to keep her secret away from her family for her holiday? Or is Coming Home exactly what Alison needs to make her feel happy again?
I have enjoyed a few Patricia Scanlan novels in the past, but I haven't read anything by her in a while now. I am a bit partial to anything festive so when I saw that her latest book was going to be based on the Christmas season, I couldn't wait to read it. The cover is a little old-fashioned, with a Christmas wreath on a door, but the small hardback makes a perfect little gift and seems like a sweet little book you can pop into your bag to read anywhere. It's not very long, only just over 200 or so pages but its plenty for a short and sweet read.
The book begins shortly after Alison has lost her job, and Patricia does a great job of writing Alison's despair and angst without making it feel depressing and too sad. She writes of New York beautifully and as I've been there a couple of times, I can imagine the places Alison lives in and the things and places she sees. Scanlan's writing is very vivid and I love how she brings people, places and emotion to life through the words on the paper. It takes a little while for the book to move over to Ireland, and this part of the book was definitely my favourite.
The character of Alison was easy to relate to and I found myself feeling sorry for her and sympathising for her because of her bad luck. I did find it strange she didn't tell her family about her job loss, but it makes sense as the story progresses and we learn more about her family dynamic. I really liked Alison's sister Olivia - she's a real family girl and she was my favourite in the book. Patricia writes her 3 daughters well too, she captures the excitement of Christmas through young children's eyes perfectly, and it adds a real sparkle of magic to the book. Patricia also writes the characters of Alison's parents Esther and Liam really well, and you can sense the pride in these characters - the relationship is great between them and it was a joy to read. To read about a family still so close in this day and age was lovely because so much you read about relationships breaking down, this was a great change from the norm!
What I enjoyed about this book is that it is an easy, enjoyable read that will really get you in the mood for Christmas and have you feeling happy once you've turned the last page. I sent the book to my mum after reading it myself and she loved it too, so it's definitely a book that will appeal to a broad age range. My favourite scenes were with the Dunwoody family preparing for Christmas and going through their own traditions, it definitely made me think of creating some traditions of my own with my little boy. Patricia has really captured the essence of family in this book, and the moral of the story is that the perfect job isn't the be-all-and-end-all - family is important too and we mustn't lose track of that like some of us tend to do.
The book is pretty predictable but it is a lovely Christmassy read and you don't want to read something like this and it not have the outcome that you want all the way through the book! Patricia's writing is very easy to read, and I found myself getting through the book at quite a pace, but I didn't mind because it was such a good read. It's a happy little story and I think it's a must-read for the build up to Christmas - it's got a little Christmas magic, love, laughs and tears too - I loved it! Highly recommended.
ISBN: 978-1848270763. Published by Transworld Ireland in October 2009. The small hardback has 256 pages and an RRP of £9.99.
Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review for http://chicklitreviews.com
Thank you for reading!