19 November 2014

Book Review: A Proper Family Christmas by Chrissie Manby

"Annabel Buchanan has it all. A privileged life. Pots of cash. Looks and manners born of generations of fabulous breeding. At least, that's what she likes people to think. But Annabel's carefully created image is about to come crashing down.

With her beloved daughter Izzy in need of a kidney transplant, Annabel is desperate to find a suitable donor. That's how she comes to admit that before Annabel Buchanan there was Daisy Benson, given up for adoption by her teenage mum and dad.

Hoping her biological family will be able to help, Annabel traces the Bensons and is horrified by the embarrassing, chavvy bunch she discovers. They're definitely not her kind of people. And she is equally baffling to them.

But as Christmas approaches and Izzy's situation brings the Benson and the Buchanan families closer, will Annabel discover at last that blood is thicker than water?"


Festive Rating: 

You can buy A Proper Family Christmas as a paperback or an eBook now.

I haven't read a book by Chrissie Manby in a while, but I really am not sure why! I love her writing, so when I was sent a copy of her latest book to review, I was really pleased. I soon realised it was the second book in Chrissie's 'Proper Family' series, and I was a bit concerned because I hadn't read the first book and therefore didn't know anything about the previous story or characters. I went into it, hoping that this wouldn't be too much of an issue and luckily, it wasn't. Manby gives us enough information to understand what went on in the first book - in fact, it's cleverly brought up as a plot point in the middle of the book (the holiday from the first book), so all is explained within this book, but it makes you curious to want to read that book to find out what else went on! I loved this book, even if it wasn't overly Christmassy, and here's why you should read it.

As I mentioned it's the second in a series. The first book is about the Benson-Edwards family. There's matriarch Jackie, married to her husband Bob, and the pair have 2 daughters, Ronnie and Chelsea. Ronnie has 2 children, Sophie and Jack, and lives with her partner. Chelsea is single but going through some troubles of her own. The family were rocked when it was revealed on holiday that Jackie had a baby girl before Ronnie, whom she adopted out, called Daisy. Little do they know that Daisy is going to make a shocking reappearance back in their lives, wanting perhaps more than Jackie and her family are willing to give. Daisy, or Annabel as she's now called is having her own family crisis, and needs to return to her roots for the support her daughter Isabelle desperately needs.

This story was wonderful in so many ways. It tackles quite a few key issues, but it is done so brilliantly by Manby. The main issue is of course adoption, and the effects it has not only on the parents at the time of the adoption, but the ramifications it can have later on in life too. The story flits between the tales of Annabel and her family, and Jackie and her family, and eventually becomes more mixed as the story goes on. I found Annabel to be quite a dislikeable character, a bit snobby and mean, and I didn't like the reason that she finally got in touch with her biological family for. However, it was essential for the story development, and it definitely makes you think about what you would do if you were in Annabel's situation - I dare say I would probably do the same but it makes for tough reading at times.

I did feel incredibly sorry for Jackie and her family though. Jackie is clearly over the moon to be reunited with her daughter again, even though it doesn't seem entirely reciprocated. Ronnie on the other hand is more aware that things aren't all rosy, and is a bit more hesitant in forming relationships with her new sister. The constantly changing family dynamic was interesting to read, and I was always wondering what was going to happen to throw a spanner in the works next. I really enjoyed reading the stories of the younger characters actually - teenagers Issy and Sophie were a breath of fresh air, and certainly change your perception of teenage girls in a way, I really liked them, especially Issy and what she was going through. Young Jack is the comedy character of the bunch, and Manby writes him so realistically, he's just perfect for the story!

As well as the issue of adoption, the book looks at eating disorders, dementia, and drug abuse amongst others, and they're handled delicately but brilliantly within the story. You really feel for the characters, their problems and the state they have got themselves in, and that's due to the brilliant writing. I could really get absorbed into the story, into the lives of these characters and I didn't want to put it down. The festive element of this book came right at the end, personally I was hoping for more due to the title of the book but it was a very emotional and sweet ending, it definitely left me with a big soppy smile on my face, and happy to end there. I'm thrilled that there is a third book starring the Benson-Edwards family, and hopefully Annabel and her family will make an appearance too! Everything about this book was brilliant, it's the best book I have read by Manby and I can't wait for more. Excellent, and a must-read from me!

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