What if the memories of Christmas past were getting in the way of Christmas future?
It’s been nearly two years since Harriet lost Jonno, but she’s finally decided that it’s time to celebrate Christmas again.
Then she finds a stash of graphic novels belonging to her comic book-loving husband in the attic, and suddenly her world is turned upside down once more.
With the help of eccentric comic book dealer Kell Foxton, she discovers that the comics collected by Jonno are not only extremely valuable, but also hold the key to his secret life – a life that throws Harriet’s entire marriage and every memory she has of her husband into question.
As Harriet grows closer to Kell, she begins to feel like she could learn to love Christmas again – but first, she needs to know the truth.
I haven’t read anything by Jane Lovering in absolutely ages. I’m not sure why – I enjoyed Please Don’t Stop The Music well enough (way before the blog), and although it wasn’t really my kind of thing I thought Vampire State Of Mind was really different, original and ever so well done. Jane even wrote a great guest post for me when How I Wonder What You Are was released, comparing writing a book to decorating the living room (you can read it here) – and still I didn’t read another of her books. But I’ve finally put that right. I’ve just finished The Art Of Christmas, Jane’s Christmas-themed novella published by Choc Lit on 13th November… and thought it was quite wonderful.
It’s a scant 77 pages long, but it seems far longer. And I don’t mean that rudely, I mean that it’s 100% fleshed out, totally absorbing and engaging, with a really original story line and perfectly rounded and developed characters. First, there’s Harriet – contemplating the wonky tree she’s forced herself to put up for Christmas, still hurting desperately following the sudden death of her husband Jonno, the love of her life. I so loved her, and ached for her loss. After finding piles of comic books in her loft, she calls Kell, the dealer her husband used to buy from – and I think it’s fair to say that Harriet’s life is never quite the same again. A lot of that is because of Kell’s dog Frodo – this is no ordinary dog, and everyone who reads this wonderful story is going to fall in love with him, even if you’d perhaps prefer he didn’t wee in your hall, whimper under your desk or slobber over your cooking. But you might just fall for Kell too (I did), with his holey socks and grungy unmentionables, watching his marathon sessions of Breaking Bad – and his very sad back story. Then something happens that raises questions about Harriet’s whole marriage to Jonno, an unusual situation, very sensitively handled.
This whole story is so wonderfully written – such vivid descriptions (the illustrations of Corinthia and the Bear were so clear in my mind, but I had an equally clear image of Harriet’s burnt mince pies), words perfectly chosen, crackling dialogue, and it’s also very, very funny. But it’s also excruciatingly sad – so much so that it almost hurts. So original, so different, really enjoyable – a real thing of beauty, small and perfectly formed. Remember that name – Jane Lovering. It might have taken me a while to get back to her, but you’ll be seeing a lot more of her on Being Anne in the future… she can really write.
(My thanks to netgalley and publishers Choc Lit for my review e-copy).
She now lives in North Yorkshire, where she writes romantic comedies and labours under the tragic misapprehension that Johnny Depp is coming for her any day now. Owing to a terrible outbreak of insanity she is now the minder of five cats and three dogs – just as the five kids showed signs of leaving home, and she has to spend considerable amounts of time in a darkened room as a result (of the animals, not the kids leaving home).
Jane’s likes include marshmallows, the smell of cucumbers and the understairs cupboard, words beginning with B, and Doctor Who. She writes with her laptop balanced on her knees whilst lying on her bed, and her children have been brought up to believe that real food has a high carbon content. And a kind of amorphous shape. Not unlike Jane herself, come to think of it.