The Christmas Party by Karen Swan
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publishing Date: 31st October 2019
Source: Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!
Number of pages: 474
Genre: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction
The Christmas Party is a delicious, page-turning story of romance, family and secrets, by the Sunday Times bestselling author Karen Swan.
When Declan Lorne, the last remaining knight in Ireland, dies suddenly, an ancient title passes with him. But his estate on Ireland’s rugged south-west coast is left to his three daughters. The two eldest, Ottie and Pip, inherit in line with expectations, but to everyone’s surprise – and dismay – it is the errant baby of the family, Willow, who gets the castle.
Why her? Something unknown – something terrible – made her turn her back on her family three years earlier, escaping to Dublin and vowing never to return. So when Willow quickly announces she is selling up, her revenge seems sweet and the once-close sisters are pushed to breaking point: in desperation, Pip risks everything to secure her own future, and Ottie makes a decision that will ruin lives. It’s each woman for herself.
Before moving in, Connor Shaye, the prospective new owner, negotiates throwing a lavish party at the castle just days before Christmas – his hello, their goodbye. But as their secrets begin to catch up with them, Ottie, Willow and Pip are forced to ask themselves which is harder: stepping into the future, or letting go of the past?
On the 26th November at Lorne Castle Serena and Declan Lorne – Declan the last knight of Ireland – celebrate their 30th anniversary with a great party. Quickly after, tragedy strikes – Declan dies. Willow, the youngest sister, is summoned to come home from Dublin where she now lives, estranged from the family, however she’s not able to arrive on time, before her father’s death. Then another shock follows – Declan’s will. The three sisters: Willow, Pip and Ottie, and their mother, must now face up to new challenges, trying to come to terms with the new situation, their past and hidden secrets that are going to rise to the surface during the Christmas Party – a send off to their castle.
As usual, the characters were perfectly drawn and the three sisters were brilliantly different. all of them strong in their own way but with flaws and weaknesses and making mistakes as well. I think Pip was closest to my heart, simply because she’s crazy about horses and would do anything for her animals, but what I also loved in her was that she was feisty and stubborn, sometimes too much. Ottie seemed to be the calmer out of the three sisters but it turned out that probably she was the one with the biggest secret that could have devastating consequences. I enjoyed her journey throughout the story, loved seeing her changing and eventually see the light, realising herself and for herself that she’s worth much more, because I hated to see her like a shadow of herself, living in lie and in wait. But I also had a feeling, the more I got to know her, that she really knew that what she was doing was wrong and this is what made her so withdrawn. The youngest Willow also struggles with a secret, and even though I was suspecting something, the truth hit me unexpectedly around the head. She was fierce and fiery and we know that something wrong happened and pushed her to leave her home three years ago, to cut family ties. The guilt of coming too late to tell the last goodbye to her father was present throughout the whole story and she needed the closure so much. All three, back home after their father’s death, were forced to work out their differences and learn how to trust each other again, which brings us to three very different storylines, told in distinctive and strong voices.
Again, the setting was incredibly beautiful. I loved the Irish castle, the descriptions of its surroundings, the wild nature in winter so atmospherically captured and vividly brought to us by the author. It’s a perfect backdrop to this story, a character on its own. I liked how the author highlighted the problems and troubles of having such a financial burden in the family, the guilt of not being able to keep the castle as intact and perfect as it deserved. The writing style is beautiful, evocative and well turned. The banter was quick, sharp and entertaining, and written in a way that I could hear the Irish lilt in characters’ voices. The dialogues were rich and eloquent and flew smoothly, making the interactions dynamic and the reading even more captivating.
So what can say, other than I simply totally enjoyed this story? Yes, it was a slow – burner and the things cumulated throughout the whole story to resolve quickly – almost exploding – at the end. It is then that all the various and different threads neatly weave themselves together and everything becomes clear. But it was well worth waiting for this end, it left me surprised and also shocked, to be honest, but this is what I was expecting from this book and from this author, so all’s well that ends well.
There is actually a lot going on in this book and there is everything to keep you glued to the pages: betrayal and hope, love and hate, fun and sadness, grief, uncertainty and tension. It was a captivating and engrossing story about family, with a mystery at the heart of the plot, romance, heartbreak, tension and living and breathing characters that feel vulnerable, strong and very genuine. The Christmas theme was lacking for me, and the highly anticipated Christmas Party took place at the end, and even though it was explosive it felt too undermined. Nevertheless, the book was full of warmth and sentiments, felt a little bit nostalgic as well, and for me it was a brilliant and engaging read. Another winner from Karen Swan that I highly recommend!