I’m delighted today to share my review of The 12 Days of Christmas by Poppy Alexander: published by Orion, it’s now available as an ebook (and just 99p for kindle), in paperback, and as an audiobook. The kindle copy I read was my own, purchased and downloaded from Amazon.
I’ve been wanting to read one of Poppy’s books for a while – 25 Days in December was on my Christmas reading list last year (but time sadly ran out… so many books, so little time to read them), and I’ve seen so many wonderful reviews of The Littlest Library (but that’s sadly still waiting on my kindle too…). Along with her alter ego Rosie Howard, she’s long been a member of that rather special club – authors I knew I’d love, but whose books I never seemed to manage to read. So, this year, I was quite determined I wasn’t going to let it happen again…
The most magical time of the year…
For the first time in ten years, Freya is back in the little village of Middlemass for Christmas. The streets might be twinkling with fairy lights, but after the recent loss of her mother, she’s never felt less festive.
Forced to sleep under the same roof as her handsome neighbour Finn, Freya realises she’s going to need a distraction – fast! So she sets herself a challenge: to cook the ’12 Days of Christmas’. Her delicious food soon brings the villagers together, and as each day passes, old friendships are renewed, memories stirred and there’s even the flickering of romance…
She was only meant to stay for the holidays, but could Middlemass – and Finn – steal her heart forever?
Something I always really enjoy is when I can tell within a few opening pages that I’ve found a book I’m going to love.
This one begins on Christmas Eve, Middlemass dressed in all its Christmas finery, people making their last dashes to the shops, the Salvation Army band playing, the scent of cinnamon on the air – as Freya walks sadly around the market she always loved, shivering in her thin denim jacket, finally visiting Finn’s delicatessen in the high street for a coffee and some comfort. She’s home to arrange her mother’s funeral, having walked away from her life as a promising but under-recognised chef in Paris – finding her former home cold, dark and sadly neglected, filled with regrets that she didn’t spend more time with her mother in the years before her death. Finn – who she knew when she was young, always on the fringe of his group of friends – offers her the warmth of his friendship and the lifeline of a place to stay, and in return she takes on the challenge of cooking a daily meal based on the twelve days of Christmas, while revisiting all the regrets of her past and deciding what her future holds.
This really was the loveliest read – the beautiful warmth of the friendship and growing relationship between Finn and Freya, the new friends she finds and her attempts to recover the ones she’s lost, the way she slowly repairs herself and comes to terms with her sadness and regrets. And if Finn and Freya themselves entirely won my heart, I equally enjoyed every other well-drawn supporting character who plays their part in the story – every individual was just so wonderfully real, and I felt quite transported into their lives.
And then, of course, there’s the food – with all the quite fascinating inventiveness of developing the recipes, the whole book entirely infused with new tastes and the most wonderful enticing aromas. It’s a book any foodie couldn’t possibly fail to enjoy – and all the recipes are included in the book’s postscript if you’d like to try them yourself, where the author’s own obvious love of cooking very clearly comes across – but it also ties the food and its preparation into all the emotional ups and downs of Freya’s journey, and it’s quite perfectly done.
I really loved the writing, and in terms of emotional engagement, the author has the perfect touch – that strong focus on friendship and family that I unfailingly adore, along with the moving authenticity of the developing relationship between Finn and Freya. There are moments when you share the tears Freya sheds, but others that entirely filled my heart with joy. And I really must mention the book’s ending – perfect and uplifting in every possible way, and there was definitely an echoing cheer here in my lounge in Yorkshire (and a few happy tears).
This is everything a Christmas book should be – I loved every single moment, and recommend it really highly.
About the author
Poppy Alexander wrote her first book when she was five. There was a long gap in her writing career while she was at school, and after studying classical music at university, she decided the world of music was better off without her and took up writing instead. She takes an anthropological interest in family, friends and life in her West Sussex village (think, The Archers crossed with Twin Peaks) where she lives with her husband, children and various other pets.
Poppy’s first book – 25 Days ‘Til Christmas – has been translated into several languages.