Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The Christmas Party by Karen Swan

Title: The Christmas Party
Author: Karen Swan
Publication: Pan Books, paperback, 2019
Genre: Fiction/Romance
Setting: Present-day Ireland
Description: When their father dies unexpectedly, sisters Ottilie (Ottie), Philippa (Pip), and Wilhelmina (Willow) are devastated, and the way he left the estate causes even more angst. The area used for a campground and the converted boathouse she lives in are left to Ottie, the stables to Pip, and the castle to the estranged youngest child Willow. Yet because the estate hasn’t broken even financially or years and estate taxes loom, there is little choice but to sell. The sisters are drowning in secrets: Ottie’s secret romance with a married man, Pip’s lingering anger at an ex-boyfriend, while Willow has never told anyone why she left home precipitously and must arrange a sale of her ancestral home to a man her father despised – without delay. As the sale goes through, the castle is quickly and improbably burnished to perfection to host a glamorous Christmas party at which nearly everyone’s problems (romantic and otherwise) are solved and the villain is satisfyingly humiliated.
My Impression: The Christmas Party is an enjoyable story set on the chilly coastline of south-west Ireland in December that follows the Lorne family as they endure the loss of their father, rail against the financial situation he has left behind, cope with the mistakes of the past that led to Willow’s departure three years ago, and face the future as sisters who care about each other (although they don’t always show it). The sisters (and their silly names) are hard to like at first, especially Ottie, exploited by her married lover and taking out her dissatisfaction on others; Pip, the clich├ęd cares-more-about-horses-than-people character, whose customary rudeness is tolerated by those around her; and Willow, who escaped to Dublin three years earlier and does not understand whether father left her the estate as a punishment or for some other reason. Their mother is devastated by her husband’s death and provides no assistance to anyone – I didn’t think much of her. 

Despite these flaws, I enjoyed the setting, the intricate plotting, and the interaction of the characters. I grew to care about Ottie and Willow (whose secret I guessed, although I found its long-ago cause somewhat ridiculous) and I admired Willow’s determination to extract her home from financial ruin. The Christmas theme was minimal, perhaps just an excuse for a ball so everyone could get dressed up at the end but, apparently, the author writes a winter holiday novel each year.   It's not a family saga exactly but it has more depth than mere chick lit.  

Source: Library. Thanks to Cath for mentioning this author and piquing my curiosity.  I am sure I will read more of her books if they turn up in the US as this one did.


Cath said...

Yes, I thought Christmas Under the Stars had more depth than your run-of-the-mill chick-lit too. In fact it wasn't at all what I was expecting though I should've guessed by just looking at the size of the thing. I didn't realise the author wrote a Christmas book every year. Mine had precious little Christmas in it too but I did enjoy the world building and the setting and will keep an eye out for more by her. Think I grabbed mine in a charity shop, one of those casual, 'That looks interesting' buys. Sometimes they pay off, sometimes they don't.

Marg said...

I just read Midnight in the Snow recently and loved it! I get the impression that her books are set at Christmas but not about Christmas. I have this one out from the library so I am looking forward to reading it soon.