Review: Together for Christmas by Carol Rivers (5/5)

Monday 8 December 2014
August 1914, London. Britain has just declared war on Germany, and the whole country seems to be in uproar. Flora, Hilda and Will, who grew up together in St Boniface orphanage sit in the sunshine in Hyde Park on a rare day off, discussing the impending war and the changes it will bring to their lives. Will means to go off to fight, Hilda hopes to better her current lot in life as a maid at the charitable institute, Hailing House, but Flora is content with her job as assistant to the Isle of Dogs' kindly Doctor Tapper. Taking a vow, they pledge to always be there for each other, come what may.

It soon becomes clear that the war will not be over by Christmas, as so many thought, and the first zeppelin raids bring casualties flooding into the surgery where Flora works. Tragedy strikes in the trenches, too, and Will returns home with physical and mental wounds too deep for Flora to be able to nurse back to health.

In the meantime, Hilda has taken herself away from London to work as a maid at the sumptuous house of Adelphi. But it is not long before she finds herself out of her depth. And the consequences of her choices will lead to a shocking discovery that will change the course of the three orphans lives forever.

First of all I must thank Carol Rivers for sending me a signed copy of her book, since I started blogging I have constantly been overwhelmed at the generosity of authors. Despite not being the intended audience, one genre of books I have enjoyed reading over the years is Family Sagas. I am from Liverpool and there are hundreds of books set in the city at the times of both World Wars. What on the outside can seem like a bit of a lovey dovey story for me really brings those times to life, with stories about communities pulling together, families waiting for news of loved ones and of a city that refused to give up its fight. I then looked for authors writing books set in London, and came across Harry Bowling and then Carol Rivers.

Telling the story of three orphans, Flora, Hilda and Will, Together for Christmas begins in 1914 and Britain has just declared war on Germany. Will is going off to fight. Hilda is to become a maid at Hailing House whilst Flora is to continue her job as assistant to the Isle of Dogs' Doctor Tapper. They make a vow that they will always be there for each other no matter what. Carol is a wonderful writer and it wasn't long before I was completely consumed by this book, reading it late at night before finishing it in the very early hours. These books are fictional but I feel the emotional connection felt by the reader is greater because they are based on true events, some of the worst this country has ever seen and will ever see. The characters of Flora, Hilda and Will to me were believable and realistic, I thought about them when I wasn't reading the book and I am still thinking about them now.

Carol's descriptions allow for some extremely vivid pictures in your mind, having walked around the Isle of Dogs and seeing its transformation, it's hard to believe what it once was like but Carol knows the area, and uses that knowledge to create a very believable picture. These books do often end up finishing rather nicely, but some gripping and shocking events over the course of the novel made this a more suspenseful novel than similar ones. The ending was a tad emotional, and despite the obvious trauma these characters face throughout the book, it really is a book that was ideal for Christmastime. These characters are hoping for happiness yet we as a reader know what's to come in the years after the First World War, I'd like to read about these characters again but whatever Carol writes next I just cannot wait to read.

The Family Saga genre is very popular amongst older people, I've never witnessed anyone my age hunting through the saga books at the library which I think is a great shame. These books I feel can be enjoyed by people of all ages, visitors to my blog will know I read many different genres and that's because if we take away genre and look at a book as just a book, then as long as the story is good and the reader is entertained, who are we to say who should read certain books? Books can be enjoyed by just about anybody and this book is the perfect example of that.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy. 


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  2. Thank you so much for this informative and level-headed review, Shaun. Genres are a bit like footwear, you've got to try all sorts before you're comfy. I'm grateful that you even had time to try my books, when there are so many other exciting genres to sample. I love reading the Liverpool sagas, or come to that, any saga - anywhere! But I'd enjoy the back of a cornflakes boxes if I was desperate. That's how you learn to write better, of course, by reading. My all time favs are Harry Bowling and Liza Kennedy. I cut my teeth with Harry and he passed too quickly. So mentioning my books in the same breath as him, boy, what a compliment! I'm not keen on emotional endings either so thank you for reinforcing my instincts.Thank you, Shaun, for your vibrant, addictive blog. I'll be passing by frequently. Carol.R.x


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