Publishing year: 2010
I have loved the other books by William Nicholson I have read so far.
That is why I started this novel, certain I was going to enjoy it. The book presents an arrangement of characters and their relationships in the weeks running up to Christmas.
First, we are introduced to Belinda Redknapp who is having lunch with her friend Laura Broad. Belinda is fifty-two and married to a plastic surgeon Tom. She has two children, Chloe and Alex. Now Belinda complains that her sexual life is lacking, and she is in that period of her life where she is at the cusp of her sexuality, and she even confesses she is jealous of her daughter Chloe for all the male attention she gets. Belinda later gets a shock when one of the women who work with her husband tells her that Tom is having an affair with someone working in marketing at the hospital. Belinda had previously reflected that she really didn’t marry Tom because she was in love, but because she was the right choice, but this piece of news must have hurt, if not her feelings, her pride.
Tom is really having an affair. Meg is in marketing, and they started their relationship when they were in some kind of conference in London. When Meg first started working at the hospital, he didn’t think much of her, but something changed in London. We don’t know the particulars between Meg and Tom, but the thing that drew Tom to Meg is that he felt she desired her, something that might not have experienced with Belinda for a long time. I am not sure if it is love what joins these two characters, but I have the hunch that the affair is more important for Meg than for Tom.
Chloe is returning home for Christmas. As her mother suspects, she is quite sensual and has enjoyed her share of men. Just recently she has broken up with her boyfriend Hal because she had a fling with another boy, Robbie.
Apart from the Redknapps, we learn a bit about Laura Broad. Laura is not as demanding as her friend Belinda. I think she is quite easy-going, and is there for those who need her. She is married to Harry, who we don’t know anything about yet, and she has two children Carry and Jack. What Laura is concerned about is that she thinks her children are not happy. Carry is contrary and always in a foul mood, but we don’t know why yet. And Jack, who is at university, used to have a girlfriend Hannah, who left him weeks ago, but he hasn’t told his family yet. Jack thinks he needs to forget about Hannah, and he sets to find some distraction. He remembers bumping into Chloe, and he thinks he could try his luck with her. What we know from Chloe is that she thinks Jack is not her type, as he seems too young to her. Yet, she has plans for him as when on the train she runs into Alice Dickinson, who doesn’t have much experience with men, Chloe thinks she could set up Alice with Jack. I wonder what will come from this. There is a love triangle here that might be interesting to see unfold.
Apart from her children, Laura has a close relationship with Diana, her older sister. I have the impression that Diana treats her sister like a pet, as if she were below her, and she scorns her opinions. Yet, when she needs her sister, she doesn’t doubt to call her. Now Diana is worried about her husband Roddy, who seems to be depressed and hardly talks lately. So Diana has asked her sister tot talk to him since Roddy apparently has a soft spot for her sister-in-law. Laura is not sure she can do anything, but she promises to come for dinner the following day.
Another family we get to know is the one formed by Liz Dickinson and Alan Strachan. The couple have two children, Caspar who is six, and Alice, the girl Chloe met on the train. Alan is a scriptwriter, but he is quite unhappy with his job as all his ideas are altered by those who have the money and wants to turn the production into a big success. So his original work ends up being a completely different thing. Alan is also Meg’s sister, the woman who is having an affair with Tom Redknapp.
I’m enjoying the book already. The different relationships of the characters make the book enjoyable and quite dynamic. We still need to learn more about these characters and their feelings and behaviours. I am intrigued to know what Belinda will do now that she knows her husband is cheating on her. Will she have an affair herself? Will she confront Tom about it? And what about Chloe, Jack, and Alice? Will Jack be interested in Alice? Or will Chloe have a change of heart when Jack comes on to her? And what about Laura? What is wrong with Roddy? Will she be able to help him?