A fine fes­tive farce

THEXMASFACTOR An­nieSan­ders Orion, £9.99

The Herald - Arts - - Books - VANESSA CUR­TIS

De­pend­ing whether or not you’re a fan of Christ­mas, the ti­tle of An­nieSan­ders’s novel will ei­ther have you run­ning past with your eyes averted or snap­ping it up for a stock­ing-filler. But be­neath the sea­sonal red and green book jacket there’s plenty to en­ter­tain both lovers and haters of the fes­tive sea­son. An­nie San­ders is the com­pos­ite name of two best­selling au­thors, An­nieAsh­worth and MegSan­ders, and the fruit of their joint ef­forts is this warm com­edy of man­ners based around two women who haven’t got the time to “do” Christ­mas in the way they’d like to. Carol is a highly stressed mag­a­zine ed­i­tor who’s fight­ing to keep her dated pub­li­ca­tion in the­mar­ket. She scoops an in­ter­view with the hottest young pop star on the planet but the ar­ti­cle un­leashes a chain of events that have pro­found con­se­quences. Carol has a young son, Tim, a drippy child whose­main aim in life is to find his mother a new boyfriend. Else­where there are shades of a Daph­neDu Mau­rier novel in the life of Beth, a ha­rassed lec­turer. Beth is a mod­ern-day Mrs de Win­ter, newly mar­ried to a hand­some older man, Ja­cob, and strug­gling to step out of the shadow of his adored and strong-willed dead wife – who of course is named “Re­becca”. Along with mar­riage to Ja­cob comes the oblig­a­tory emo­tional bag­gage – a stroppy, self-ob­sessed step­daugh­ter called Holly, wholoathes Beth and just hap­pens to work on a wo­man’s mag­a­zine with Carol. When Carol rents a run­down­cot­tage for the hol­i­days near to Beth’s house of chaos, the two women are thrown to­gether to unite against the com­monen­emy – Christ­mas Day. The re­sult is an en­joy­able yarn of far­ci­cal sit­u­a­tions, last-minute pan­ics, fam­ily ten­sions and bit­ter­sweet com­edy be­fore all loose ends come to­gether in a sat­is­fy­ing if slightly nau­se­at­ing fairy-tale con­clu­sion. Many of the things we love to hate about Christ­mas are laughed at in com­fort­ing fash­ion and each chap­ter be­gins with a quo­ta­tion from someghastly “count­down to Christ­mas” man­ual: “Think ahead dur­ing the year and save those off-cuts from your cur­tain mak­ing. They’ll be just per­fect for edg­ing na­tiv­ity play cos­tumes for your lit­tle an­gels.” TheX­mas Fac­tor brings good­will to all women, and it might just see you through to theNew Year with­out want­ing to com­mit a crime.

LIT­TLE AN­GELS: The Xmas Fac­tor sends up man­u­als of­fer­ing handy sea­sonal tips

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