By Sophia Whitfield
Rachel Joyce has a gentle lyrical touch to all her stories. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was her first highly praised novel. A Snow Garden, her latest collection of stories, is a joyous reflection of the holiday season.
The seven short stories celebrate family, joy and giving. Each story is linked by one image but the characters are different and the stories their own individual tale. They span from the end of the school term to Christmas Day and then New Yearís Eve. An ode to the festive season.
Broken families attempting to forge a unit for Christmas are a central theme. At the end of the school term Binny finds her life shattered. She is out Christmas shopping in a bid to show some inclination for the festivities. But she finds herself in a sparkling shop full of cleaning products being forced to purchase something by a keen saleswoman who seems to know a little too much.
On Christmas Eve a couple find themselves constructing a DIY racing bike for their only child. A son, they both know, will not want the bike. As they attempt to put it together they find themselves deconstructing their marriage, unknowingly watched by their son.
In her third story Christmas unfolds in an airport. Flights are delayed and passengers are left tired and distraught. Santaís are brought in to entertain children while behind the scenes staff wrangles with nativity animals. Amongst all the chaos, in a link to the nativity, a child is born, although not in a stable.
Boxing Day follows with a ball where a young couple meet. Smitten, they begin their romance but their future is not the rosy one they predict.
Joyce returns to families for her fifth story, which features a divorced Dadís nervous attempt at Christmas on his own with his two boys. He promises so much but is sure he will not be able to follow through. The snow garden is his saviour.
Her next story centres on a motherís desire to put on the best Christmas ever for her son, a famous pop star. He returns as the prodigal son to a house full of family his mother wants to impress. It is not long before she realises he is simply her son, not the most famous young man in the world. All her son wants is a normal family Christmas away the heady heights of fame.
The final tale is the start of the New Year. New beginnings are represented as an elderly parent insists on planting twenty trees at midnight with his son.
A moving collection of stories that will stay with you. The perfect read before you dive into Christmas. Buy the book here.
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