Review published on October 25, 2017.
Whilst I can’t get enough of Christmas, I can’t say the same for festive fiction. From October each year the shelves become inundated with books of a Christmassy nature and though I love a good yuletide yarn, it can get a bit much when you’ve had your twelfth helping of mistletoe and wine and all variations there on. But I may have just struck gold with my first festive offering of the season in the shape of Jenny Colgan’s Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery, which I missed last year in hardback but which is released this year in paperback. It is part of Colgan’s Little Beach Street Bakery series, but there’s absolutely no need to have read the other books to be able to dive straight into this and enjoy it. In fact, Colgan gives a quick run-down at the start of the novel to bring readers up to speed and it really is a case of being able to pick it up and immediately follow the story of Polly, the owner of the eponymous bakery, her fiancé Huckle and their adopted pet puffin Neil and the trials and tribulations of the little seaside community of Mount Polbearne.
Whether or not you’re not a fan of Christmas books, Colgan strikes a nice balance without going too overboard on all of the festive features, focusing very much on the plot. But it is the characters that really sell this novel and Colgan has created some absolute gems. Polly and Huckle have a lovely chemistry and relationship and both are hugely charismatic and likeable, and Neil the puffin may very well be the best animal sidekick out there. What is so remarkable though is that the cast of secondary characters are particularly strong and rounded, not least in this offering, Polly’s best friend’s husband, Reuben. He is a good old-fashioned egotist that Colgan sends up beautifully and he’s the source of a lot of the book’s many laughs.
Naturally, with this genre, the plot is over the top and exaggerated and at times it did feel as if the plot was running away with itself, especially in the relationship between Polly and Huckle, and I did want a bit more from Polly’s reunion with her father. I also had difficulty with some of the character’s decisions and choices in the novel, but presumably as this book is part of a series, many of the narrative strands I suspect may be followed up in later books. But those points aside, this is very much the sort of extravagant, feel good, uplifting read that festive books should aim for and for me whilst not the greatest literary offering it is a perfect Christmas book. Something to curl up with in winter and enjoy the festive madness.
Jade Craddock 5/3
Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan
Sphere 9780751564778 pbk Oct 2017
Our Intrepid Reporter: Jade Craddock at the Cheltenham Literature Festival