Sunday, December 16, 2018

Christmas on the Island (Book Review)

Title: Christmas on the Island
Author: Jenny Colgan
Publication: William Morrow, trade paperback, October 2018
Genre: Fiction
Plot: On the remote Scottish island of Mure, winter is stark, windy, and icy—yet the Christmas season is warm and festive . . .
It’s a time for getting cozy in front of a fire and spending time in the one pub on the island with the people you love—unless, of course, you’ve accidentally gotten pregnant by your ex-boss, and don’t know how to tell him. In the season for peace and good cheer, will Flora find the nerve to reveal the truth to her nearest and dearest? Will handsome but troubled future-father Joel think she’s the bearer of glad tidings—or is this Christmas going to be as bleak as the Highlands in midwinter? 

Recent arrivals to the Island are facing serious challenges as well.   Flora’s family is trying to say goodbye to Colton Rogers, the American magnate who found love in Mure but has now received the worst medical news imaginable.  And Saif, a doctor and refugee from war-torn Syria, is trying to cope with his first western Christmas with his sons on this remote island where he’s been granted asylum. Yet his wife is still missing, and her absence hangs over what should be a hopeful new life. Can his small family possibly find comfort and joy without her?  And what about the crush Flora’s friend Lorna has on the handsome but somber doctor?

Audience: Fans of Rosamunde Pilcher, Marcia Willett, and Sophie Kinsella will enjoy this glimpse of a distant island. Colgan is a New York Times bestselling author and has a US following. 

My Impressions: This is a book that pulls the reader in immediately with vivid characters and a stark but appealing setting (although you won’t find me visiting Mure in December!).  While I hadn’t realized that it was part of a series, it held up well as a standalone (I made a quick dash to the library to grab the first, The Café by the Sea) and it was easy to figure out that had happened in the previous two books.  Colgan is known for her humor but this story is very serious: Flora, who runs the Seaside Kitchen, knows her boyfriend’s wariness about relationships is due to abuse he suffered as a child, Colton is dying and his family is only interested in his money, Saif can’t move on with his life until he knows if his wife is alive and he is unaware of his elder son’s misery, and Mure may be beautiful but job opportunities are very limited – Flora’s café includes scrumptious-sounding baked goods but she is barely breaking even.  

UK cover - not as strong but the
houses are more realistically sized

Usually, I don’t care for so many crises being tossed about by an author (angst overload) but she weaves the plot lines convincingly enough to disarm me.  If I were a Colgan character, I suspect I would quit my job, move to Mure and open a bookstore – in fiction, it would probably all work out for the best!

One of the minor characters Colgan depicts so skillfully is Jan, part of a husband-wife team who run a sort of Outward Bound program, who reminded me of Mrs. Elton in Emma.  Jan resents Flora because Flora (who is more attractive) once kissed her ordinary husband (when he was single) so Jan is very snide, which the husband mostly doesn’t see and Flora has to ignore.   But it is Jan’s irritated assumption that Flora should comp her bakery purchases (just because) that annoys Flora and rings so true to me.  Annoying, entitled people are everywhere and not everyone in Mure can be congenial.  But Colton’s unpleasant brother is positively affected by his visit and unexpectedly helps Flora:
‘Got any pancakes?’They didn’t normally do pancakes either, but Flora desperately wanted to vanish into the kitchen for a bit and had no objection to making something as incredibly simple as a stack of pancakes so she smiled and said, ‘Sure thing,’ as he requested maple syrup and bacon, both of which she could manage. (She wasn’t sure how many he’d want, so she made nine in the end, of which he ate nine and looked slightly regretful there weren’t more.  During this period, no fewer than four separate groups of people came in, looked at what he was eating and decided they too wanted pancakes, and as they were super-easy  to make and cost absolutely nothing.   Flora ended up putting them on the menu full time and they turned into an absolutely brilliant little brunch money-spinner.
Off the Blog: In preparation for Mary Poppins Returns with Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda, last night I watched the DVD of the original Mary Poppins with two of my nephews (“Why are they singing all the time?” “It’s a musical!”) and a more appreciative niece last night.  It was one of the first movies I saw as a child; I owned the soundtrack and knew every song by heart.
Source: Recommended for those who enjoy light women's fiction, although I would advise starting at the beginning of the series with The Café by the Sea (which I have finished and am about to begin the sequel). I received a copy of this book by the publisher and TLC Book Tours for review purposes. You can visit other stops on the tour and read the reviews by clicking below:

Review Stops

December 3rd: BookNAround
December 4th: A Bookish Way of Life
December 5th: A Chick Who Reads
December 6th: bookchickdi
December 7th: Into the Hall of Books
December 10th: Ms. Nose in a Book
December 11th: Jackie Reads Books
December 14th: Kahakai Kitchen
December 18th: A Book a Week
December 19th: Books and Bindings


Katrina said...

I recently read my first Jenny Colgan book and enjoyed it so I borrowed this one from the library before realising I should read the previous two. I'l get around to them all - sometime.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

I like the comparison of the covers - I prefer the US one for sure.

Thanks for being on the tour!