21 November 2012

Book Review: The Perfect Present by Karen Swan

"Haunted by a past she can’t escape, Laura Cunningham desires nothing more than to keep her world small and precise - her quiet relationship and growing jewellery business are all she needs to get by. Until the December day when Rob Blake walks into her studio and commissions a necklace that will tell his enigmatic wife Cat’s life in charms. As Laura interviews Cat’s family, friends and former lovers, she steps out of her world and into theirs – a charmed world where weekends are spent in Verbier and the air is lavender-scented, where friends are wild, extravagant and jealous, and a big love has to compete with grand passions. Hearts are opened, secrets revealed and as the necklace begins to fill up with trinkets, Cat’s intoxicating life envelops Laura’s own. By the time she has to identify the final charm, Laura’s metamorphosis is almost complete. But the last story left to tell has the power to change all of their lives forever, and Laura is forced to choose between who she really is and who it is she wants to be."

Rating: 4/5

As you all know by now, I do love a Christmas novel, and last year I thoroughly enjoyed Karen Swan's first festive offering Christmas at Tiffany's. Swan decided again this year to release another festive novel, this time entitled The Perfect Present. I loved the cover straight away, with the red and the snow, it looks really beautiful and romantic looking. It's quite a long book at just over 500 pages, and despite a bit of a slow start, it was, by the end, a beautifully written tale of love, loss and friendship, and how we don't always know everything about those that we love, and to just live each day as it comes. Here's why I think I should be reading 'The Perfect Present' this Christmas.

Laura Cunningham hasn't had an easy life, but she loves her job as a jewellery maker, working in her own isolated studio, while she lives with boyfriend Jack, and works with best friend and manager Fee. Laura only works to commissions, so when she's approached by Rob Blake who demands she makes an intricate charm necklacke for his wife, she's a bit taken aback. Reluctantly, Laura accepts and for the next few weeks, her life is changed as she embraces Rob's expensive lifestyle, flitting abroad to Verbier and skiing with Cat's nearest and dearest, to wild, expensive parties and auctions. But as the necklace slowly fills up with charms that Laura is creating, Cat's lifestyle is rubbing off more and more on Laura's own life. Can Cat's necklace make Laura face up to what it is she's running away from, and will the necklace leave all of their lives changed forever?

As I mentioned before, I did the start of the book was a little bit slow, and it took my perseverance to keep going with it, and know that something better was ahead, and I'm pleased that I did. Laura was an interesting character, someone I didn't fully warm to throughout the book and found a little bit fickle, and I had the feeling there was something being held back about her that would explain a lot of things. I was right, as things are revealed as the book progresses which does explain a lot of Laura's behaviour, but I still didn't like some of her actions in the book, and she is certainly a flawed character. I felt very sorry for her boyfriend Jack, he was the perfect boyfriend in so many ways, but wasn't getting the love and respect back he deserved, probably something which didn't help my response to Laura at all!

I really loved the focus on a charm necklace (although of course quite similar to Melissa Hill's latest book The Charm Bracelet), and how each charm was created after Laura interviewing each of Cat's friends and family to find the "real her". Of course, this mean secrets are revealed, and Laura struggles to cope with what she's finding out, and the fact she's being swept away by the lavish lifestyle suddenly thrust upon her. The people in Cat's life, including Cat herself actually, weren't very nice people, all a bit obsessed with their own lives, money and designer labels (which were frequently name dropped throughout the book!). The only one I really liked was Kitty, the busy housewife who seemed to be the only genuine person in the whole book! However, having a cast of dislikeable people makes for interesting reading as things develop, and I really wasn't sure how it was all going to end for Laura, Rob, Cat and co. The festive feeling was there throughout the book, although not laid on too thick (sadly!) , just the odd mention, and of course the winteriness of Verbier and skiing transports you to that winter frame of mind!

This is a very involved story with quite a few characters that you really have to sit down and concentrate to read to keep on top of all the things going on, but it's a very enjoyable novel that sweeps you away in the glamorous lifestyles of the characters within, and get drawn into Laura's puzzling past that still affects her present. It was fun to read about the friendships in the book, how they've changed as people get older and circumstances change, and how things aren't always as they seem between the friends. It's an emotional read, but one that doesn't get too carried away with the "tugging on your heartstrings" storyline, it's enough to make you feel for Laura, and understand why she is the way she is, but also teaches us how we certainly don't know everything about people that we think we do. I enjoyed it, and look forward to more from Karen Swan.

You can buy The Perfect Present as a paperback or an eBook now.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an interesting read.
    Thanks for the review