A fine festive farce
THEXMASFACTOR AnnieSanders Orion, £9.99
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.
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