15 October 2010
Book Review: A Season to Remember by Sheila O'Flanagan
It has been a while since I read one of Sheila's books, so when I was sent this gorgeous festive themed read, I couldn't help but tuck in straight away. The cover looks beautiful in the image to the left, but it is so much more beautiful in real life, with a sparkly heart on the front, and is certainly a book you'd be proud to be seen reading! The book is actually a sort of short story collection rather than one big novel, which actually suits the book because you can dip in and out of it quite nicely, and I can certainly imagine it will be a great one to read on a cold winter evening in front of the fire! So I dove straight in hoping to love it, and luckily for me, Sheila didn't let me down!
The book begins introducing us to the hotel owners, Neil and Claire, and I thought we would be following them over the christmas period, but that turned out not to be the case. I really liked them as a couple, O'Flanagan writes them as a nice pair that begin the story with a real homely feel because they adore their hotel, and straight away I felt like I wanted the hotel to be okay, just because of them! Instead of following the hoteliers, we are instead treated to a room-by-room story about each of the guests, and the reason they came to be at the hotel at Christmas. This works really well because it allows for interactions between the guests to keep the story in the present but also allows us to go into the back story of these characters which really allows you to get absorbed into their stories.
I don't want to tell you too much about them because the beauty of this book is seeing the stories unravel as you read them, but I will tell you a bit about what's inside. We meet a couple who seem to be having problems, but it isn't at all clear to everyone else why they seem to not be speaking to each other during their stay. There is a group of older women who decide to spend Christmas together rather than be alone on Christmas day. There's also a young couple who flee to the hotel with their baby to get away for their warring families, and a bit of a magical ghost story thrown in too. We get a visit from some characters from one of O'Flanagan's previous books Anyone But Him which was great fun and it was nice to catch up with them and see what they are up to. A single man trying to get over the break up of his marriage also descends on Sugar Loaf Lodge and meets up with another single female resident, what will happen there? They are definitely a great bunch of characters, and ones that you will want to read about as the book progresses.
I really enjoyed every single page of this book, and would highly recommend it, especially as a festive story! However, I can imagine enjoying this book at any time of year because while it is set at Christmas, it isn't too focussed on that fact and that means you can pick this up and enjoy it whenever. I found O'Flanagan's writing style was very warm and easy to read, and she makes each of the characters one you will care about. The way she weaves the stories together despite the fact they are all a bunch of strangers is fantastic as it draws the whole book together, and I really enjoyed the use of the alternating first and third person story telling devices. I think this is a wonderful short story collection, it captures the magic of Christmas, love and family perfectly, and is a really superb read. Definitely recommended!