Today I’m welcoming my Mum back to the blog with her review of Katie Flynn’s latest novel.
A few days before Christmas Tess Williams rushes into Albert Payne’s tobacconist shop, with two boys in hot pursuit, saying she’s a thief. Albert chases the boys away, and though Tess does not realise it, this incident changes her life.
Tess lives with her grandmother, Edie, in a small flat on Heyworth Street in Norwich.She has recently returned from Bell Farm, where she was evacuated during the war, and is being bullied by her schoolmates, but when the handsome Snowy White comes to her rescue she thinks her troubles are over, and returns for a working holiday to Bell Farm and her old friend Jonty.
This leaves Edie to her own devices, however, and Tess is jealous of the friendship which blossoms between her grandmother and the tobacconist.Yet though Tess resents Albert, it is to him she turns when things start to go wrong.
Although this story starts and concludes at Christmas, it is not a Christmas story, but covers a number of years in the life of Tess Williams, her family and friends.
At the beginning of the book we are introduced to Tess as she takes refuge in a tobacconist shop down the street from where she lives as the result of a confrontation between herself and one of the market stall holders. The reader soon establishes a picture of families fighting hard to recover from the war years in an area of Liverpool, and although the picture seems cold and wanting there is a stark contrast in the characters, which are resilient, caring, hard-working and resourceful.
An immediate friendship springs to life between Tess and the owner of the shop, Albert. They end up sharing a cuppa in the kitchen, as Tess explains her predicament which made me consider if things have necessarily changed for the better. Up until midway through the story, the reader is given generous helpings of life just after the war, with rationing and the struggle to re establish businesses. In parallel we also see the difficulties of country farming life, as Tess revisits the Bell family who treated her as their own during her evacuation to Norfolk during the war.
I have to say at some points I really did wonder how much these poor folk could cope with. One crisis seemed to follow another and even a fun day out at the seaside, in the height of summer, turned to mayhem when Norfolk was hit by a storm with hailstones the size of golf balls – having said that I do think Katie Flynn has a knack of ‘ telling it like it is’ – no frills, and this is refreshing and honest.
Midway through the book sees Tess growing up; having been befriended by a boy older than herself – Snowy White, a charismatic character whose charm attracts the girls, like bees to a honey pot – Snowy respects Tess and forms a true friendship with her. As the story develops the reader is held in suspense as to whether Tess will choose Jonty her Plough boy friend from Norfolk, or the handsome educated Snowy, to give her heart to.
There are many tribulations for Tess to deal with, including a discovery that could have sent her tumbling and a very nasty situation which involves her Gran and dear Albert. As the story concludes Tess puts her heart into creating a business that will support her and Gran – but as Christmas arrives what happens at the station has the reader spellbound! Certainly a Christmas to Remember and a resolution and conclusion that I would not have predicted.
A pleasant read, easy to pick up, but from the middle of the book, difficult to put down!
We’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.
Find out more about Katie Flynn and her novels at: http://www.katieflynn.com/