Can the imperfect family really have the perfect Christmas?
Juliet Joyce adores Christmas. She loves the presents, the tree, the turkey, the tinsel.. just everything! Already the festive spirit is upon her, which is just as well as this Christmas things are starting to get a little out of hand. Her son, Tom is out of work and bringing home a slew of unsuitable partners; pregnant daughter Chloe and her little boy have moved back in; Juliet’s father, Frank, is getting over a heartbreak of his own and Rita, her eccentric mother, is behaving more erratically each day. And has the chaos got too much for Juliet’s husband, Rick?
With the big day fast approaching, Juliet hopes that she can stop everything spiralling out of control, because the only thing she wants is her family all around her and her home to be filled with love at Christmas.
Now this book was an absolute joy to read. Despite the fact that I probably read it at the most inappropriate time of the year (slap bang in the middle of summer..) it 100% dragged me into the Christmas spirit and left me wishing that winter and Christmas would just hurry up! This story is about a delightful woman called Juliet who adores every aspect of Christmas. She wants the decorations to look perfect, the food to be wonderful but what she wants most of all is for her whole family to enjoy the big day. However, with a family like Juliet’s, that proves harder than it seems. This was such a laid-back, easy-going book I quite easily read more than half the book in one day and not only that, it was incredibly entertaining and left me laughing out loud on more than one occasion. I think what made this book such a success was that it was so relatable. It’s mostly written from Juliet’s point of view so you learn to appreciate how difficult it is being a wife, mother, grandmother and a carer all in one. Throughout the book, she faces a series of very real problems along the way, ones which the majority of us will probably have to deal with at some point or another. From a mother with advancing Alzheimer’s to the passing of a loved one and her son’s unemployment and string of unsuitable partners. Juliet faces them all with such grace and dignity (apart from spraining her ankle in an attempt to ravish her husband), which I think makes her an inspiring and perfect main character.
Some of the ridiculous scenarios Juliet and her family find themselves in did make me wonder if some of it is based on true stories, which is something I’d love to ask the author about if I ever got the chance. Every family has their moments, but you would need some imagination (or own experience) to come up with some of the situations that occur during the book. This book really does tug at emotions you never knew you had and I’m not afraid to admit that it brought a tear to my eye at times. Everything’s just so much sadder when it happens at Christmas, don’t you think? The characters and their personalities are described so well you really begin to get a feel of what it’s like living with these people, some more pleasant than others. Each character has their own story and problems in their life and they were all described very well, which I liked, with Juliet being the centre of it all. With her kind-nature and her ability to always find the best in people, it’s no wonder her entire family (plus a few who are not) always come to her for help, guidance and assistance. The chapters are all very short as well so it’s very easy to get lost and just keep reading.
This is a very warm, feel-good story full of fun, happiness, festive spirit and the occasional tear. Carole (and Juliet) also manage to teach you a few valuable life lessons along the way, the main one being to never forget how important family is. Especially at Christmas. If you haven’t already, I would definitely recommend picking up a copy in time to read for Christmas! Seeing the world through the eyes of Juliet, you begin to feel like a part of their family and by the end of the book I genuinely missed the shenanigans of the dysfunctional yet loving Joyce family.
I didn’t know this but the Joyce’s feature in another of Carole Matthew’s books called, ‘The Loving Feeling’ so I’m quite relieved that I can visit them again in what will no doubt be another fun-filled read.