15 October 2009

Book Review: Coming Home by Patricia Scanlan

Alison Dunwoody thought she had it all - a great job, good salary and a great life in New York City. But when the recession hits, Alison is shocked to find that she's lost her job. She's too embarassed to tell her family, and instead decides to fly home to Ireland and have Christmas with her parents, sister and 3 gorgeous nieces.

Alison loves the feeling of being back home, but misses her new friend Jack from New York - he knows about her job loss and she can confide in him. Will Alison be able to keep her secret away from her family for her holiday? Or is Coming Home exactly what Alison needs to make her feel happy again?

I have enjoyed a few Patricia Scanlan novels in the past, but I haven't read anything by her in a while now. I am a bit partial to anything festive so when I saw that her latest book was going to be based on the Christmas season, I couldn't wait to read it. The cover is a little old-fashioned, with a Christmas wreath on a door, but the small hardback makes a perfect little gift and seems like a sweet little book you can pop into your bag to read anywhere. It's not very long, only just over 200 or so pages but its plenty for a short and sweet read.

The book begins shortly after Alison has lost her job, and Patricia does a great job of writing Alison's despair and angst without making it feel depressing and too sad. She writes of New York beautifully and as I've been there a couple of times, I can imagine the places Alison lives in and the things and places she sees. Scanlan's writing is very vivid and I love how she brings people, places and emotion to life through the words on the paper. It takes a little while for the book to move over to Ireland, and this part of the book was definitely my favourite.

The character of Alison was easy to relate to and I found myself feeling sorry for her and sympathising for her because of her bad luck. I did find it strange she didn't tell her family about her job loss, but it makes sense as the story progresses and we learn more about her family dynamic. I really liked Alison's sister Olivia - she's a real family girl and she was my favourite in the book. Patricia writes her 3 daughters well too, she captures the excitement of Christmas through young children's eyes perfectly, and it adds a real sparkle of magic to the book. Patricia also writes the characters of Alison's parents Esther and Liam really well, and you can sense the pride in these characters - the relationship is great between them and it was a joy to read. To read about a family still so close in this day and age was lovely because so much you read about relationships breaking down, this was a great change from the norm!

What I enjoyed about this book is that it is an easy, enjoyable read that will really get you in the mood for Christmas and have you feeling happy once you've turned the last page. I sent the book to my mum after reading it myself and she loved it too, so it's definitely a book that will appeal to a broad age range. My favourite scenes were with the Dunwoody family preparing for Christmas and going through their own traditions, it definitely made me think of creating some traditions of my own with my little boy. Patricia has really captured the essence of family in this book, and the moral of the story is that the perfect job isn't the be-all-and-end-all - family is important too and we mustn't lose track of that like some of us tend to do.

The book is pretty predictable but it is a lovely Christmassy read and you don't want to read something like this and it not have the outcome that you want all the way through the book! Patricia's writing is very easy to read, and I found myself getting through the book at quite a pace, but I didn't mind because it was such a good read. It's a happy little story and I think it's a must-read for the build up to Christmas - it's got a little Christmas magic, love, laughs and tears too - I loved it! Highly recommended.

Rating: 5/5

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