A delight today to be joining the blog tour for Christmas at the Farmhouse by Rebecca Boxall, and to share my review: independently published on 24th October, it’s now available for kindle and in paperback via Amazon in the UK and US. Thanks again to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and for introducing me to another new-to-me author; and to the author for my advance reading e-copy.
If I hadn’t been attracted by this book’s description (and I really was!), I’d certainly have been drawn by that gorgeous cover. I’d be more than happy to spend Christmas there, wouldn’t you? I was really rather looking forward to seeing if the story was just as lovely…
As the anticipation of Christmas builds in the Nielsen family’s cosy farmhouse, Jo, Magnus and their grown-up children begin to congregate for a hybrid Danish-Jersey festive season, each with a surprise of their own – though the surprise that arrives over Christmas is the most life-changing of all.
Fifty years earlier, in 1969, Susan Jones finds herself being pursued by Mr Jenners, her former English teacher, and at the age of seventeen is packed off to a Home for Unmarried Mothers in London by her uncompromising father. As Christmas approaches, all she can do is desperately hope to be rescued, but will anyone be able to reach her in time?
The two timelines of this festive story gradually weave together in a tale that examines whether love and hope can eventually triumph over even the deepest sadness.
Rebecca Boxall is the award-nominated author of five bestselling novels – Christmas at the Vicarage, Home for Winter, Christmas on the Coast, The Christmas Forest and Christmas by the Lighthouse.
A little longer than a novella, a little shorter than the average novel – but for the story that unfolds between its pages, I thought the length (just over 200 pages) was absolutely right. And although I say “the story”, there are really two – the 60s story of Susan, despatched by her unfeeling father to a home for unmarried mothers, and the contemporary story of Jo, Magnus and their family as they prepare for a traditional Danish Christmas at their Jersey farmhouse.
The stories are gently told – the reading is easy, and the writing really lovely – and, although you might wonder how it’s going to happen, converge really satisfyingly towards the book’s end. When two stories are so very different, it’s sometimes easy to favour one over the other, and perhaps want to focus more on the one you prefer – there’s no such issue here, as both threads are extremely well told and unfold quite comfortably side by side. There are some really nice contrasts drawn between the moral standards of the 60s – that awful focus on reputation and what other people might think – and today’s greater tolerance where all the complicated family relationships really fail to raise an eyebrow.
Susan’s a particularly well-drawn character, her first person telling of the story particularly touching when the only thing she’s really done wrong is to be a little naive, but with such far-reaching consequences. Jo’s really likeable too – very much the anchor for her complicated family, while presenting as an interesting character in her own right. The emotional touch to the whole book is perfect, heartbreaking at times but never overplayed – and I will admit I really was a bit teary towards the end as the stories played out to their conclusion. But the whole book left me with a wide smile on my face – and as it’s so full of love and hope, a rather lovely warm feeling around the heart.
It’s very different from the other Christmas books I’ve read – but I really did rather enjoy it. I’d be very happy to read more from Rebecca Boxall, and to recommend her writing to others.
About the author
Rebecca Boxall was born in 1977 in East Sussex, where she grew up in a vicarage always filled with family, friends and parishioners. She now lives by the sea in Jersey with her husband, three children and Rodney the cat. She read English at the University of Warwick before training as a lawyer and also studied Creative Writing with The Writer’s Bureau.
She is the bestselling author of Christmas at the Vicarage, Home for Winter, Christmas on the Coast, The Christmas Forest and Christmas by the Lighthouse and was nominated for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards in 2020.