Friday 3 December 2021

Gifts by Laura Barnett #Gifts #LauraBarnett @wnbooks @gigicroft #ChristmasStory


Twelve people
Twelve gifts
One Christmas to remember

Maddy runs the bookshop on Market Square. She's struggling to choose a gift (a watch? a wine subscription? a weekend bag? all too much?) for her old school friend Peter, who's just moved back from London following a messy divorce.

Peter doesn't have a clue what to get for his teenage daughter Chloe - furious with her mother, she's decided to up sticks and move to Kent with him, but he worries that he really doesn't know her at all.

Chloe wants to buy something special for her grandmother Irene, who lives alone on the other side of town.

Irene doesn't get out much these days, but she'd really like to find the right gift for Alina, who's so much more than a carer, really - always stops to chat for a bit, have a cup of tea, even if it makes her late.

And Alina, meanwhile, has her eye on something for...

Gifts by Laura Barnett was published in hardback on 11 November 2021 by W&N. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

I've read and enjoyed Laura Barnett's two previous novels, and whilst I don't read many Christmas themed books usually, I was drawn to this one by the cover, and the blurb.

I loved this story!  I read it in one day, snuggled on the settee as the wind and rain raged outside. It's just under 200 pages in the hardback version and reads like a dream.

Gifts is set now, in our current times and the characters are looking forward to a normal Christmas after the horrors of lock-downs and isolation. Barnett doesn't go into detail about COVID and the restrictions and if you are not keen on reading about the pandemic in fiction, please don't worry, these are fleeting mentions that just emphasis how much a normal holiday time is wished for.

Twelve different characters, all looking for the ideal Christmas gift for someone. Whilst each character's portion of the story is fairly short, the author really brings them to life, and as the reader gets further into the story, the links between some of the characters begin to appear. 

Most readers will see something of themselves, or their lives within this story.  Failed relationships, emerging friendships, elderly parents, difficult families; they are all there and all perfectly and precisely presented.

Gifts is a glorious read, perfect for the time of year. It is not too sweet, or mawkish, or sentimental. It's down to earth and beautifully written.  I really enjoyed this and recommend it highly. 

Laura Barnett was born in 1982 in south London, and now lives in rural Kent with her husband and son.

Her bestselling debut novel, The Versions of Us, was published in May 2015 and has been translated into 24 languages. TV rights have been optioned by Trademark Films.

Her second novel, Greatest Hits, was published in June 2017, and features a unique collaboration with singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams on an album released alongside the book. Her latest novel, Gifts - a collection of linked short stories set at Christmas in a small Kent market town - is out in November 2021.

Laura studied Spanish and Italian at Cambridge University, and newspaper journalism at City University, London. As a freelance arts journalist, features writer and theatre critic, she has worked for the Guardian, the Observer, the Daily Telegraph and other national newspapers and magazines. Her first non-fiction book, Advice from the Players – a compendium of advice for actors – was published in 2014 by Nick Hern Books. She is a senior lecturer in fiction at Manchester Metropolitan University, and teaches creative writing for the agency-led writing school Curtis Brown Creative.

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