Monday, 29 December 2014

A Proper Family Christmas - Chrissie Manby

About the book...
Annabel Buchanan has it all. A privileged life. Pots of cash. Looks and manners born of generations of fabulous breeding. At least, that's what she likes people to think. But Annabel's carefully created image is about to come crashing down.

With her beloved daughter Izzy in need of a kidney transplant, Annabel is desperate to find a suitable donor. That's how she comes to admit that before Annabel Buchanan there was Daisy Benson, given up for adoption by her teenage mum and dad.

Hoping her biological family will be able to help, Annabel traces the Bensons and is horrified by the embarrassing, chavvy bunch she discovers. They're definitely not her kind of people. And she is equally baffling to them.


But as Christmas approaches and Izzy's situation brings the Benson and the Buchanan families closer, will Annabel discover at last that blood is thicker than water?
About the author...
Chrissie Manby is the author of seventeen romantic comedies including A PROPER FAMILY HOLIDAY, THE MATCHBREAKER and SEVEN SUNNY DAYS. She has had several Sunday Times bestsellers and her recent novel about behaving badly after a break-up, GETTING OVER MR RIGHT, was nominated for the 2011 Melissa Nathan Award.

Chrissie was raised in Gloucester, in the west of England, and now lives in London. Contrary to the popular conception of chick-lit writers, she is such a bad home-baker that her own father threatened to put her last creation on www.cakewrecks.com. She is, however, partial to white wine and shoes she can't walk in. 

You can follow her on Twitter @chrissiemanby, or visit her website www.chrissiemanby.co.uk to find out more.


My thoughts...
I recently joined an online book group and A Proper Family Christmas was our first book to be discussed at the end of December.  

The story begins with Annabel Buchanan showing some of the visitors to the annual village fete around her manor house.  Not because she wants to, nor because she needs the money - it's a free tour but because she feels she should!  She really does personify a stereotypical spoilt, rich, bored, stay at home kept woman.  On the surface she has it all, the property, clothes, holidays and pots of money.  But all that collapses when her teenage daughter goes to a music festival with some friends and ends up hospitalised.

A can of worms is opened when Annabel who was adopted at birth decides to trace her birth family, because she feels that only they can help Izzy her daughter to once again lead a normal life.  She approaches them with half a story and hopes to take what she wants and run.  It's fair to say that A Proper Family Christmas is a book with hidden depths.  I formed opinions about the characters early on, the descriptions were so vivid and life like and the scenario's so very real. My opinions changed many times as the characters evolved.  This book is so accurate we all form opinions based on first impressions but often the impression we give to strangers is a facade.  Chrissie peels away the layers of Annabel and her rich friends, her adoptive mother, birth parents, grand-parent and sisters.  Breaking down barriers and exposing the true characters.

I picked this book up expecting an uplifting, xmas themed book that I'd smile and ooh and ahh my way through whilst eating and drinking my body weight in chocolates and wine. Oh how wrong I was.  It begins way before christmas and yes, it does end with a fuzzy, warm feeling but not before we tackle some hard hitting subjects head on - adoption, serious illness, teenagers, drugs, bulimia, dementia, perceptions and ideas about what is right/wrong from a family who just has enough, surviving more on love and family to a family that seemingly has everything but finds some things cost way more than money could buy.

Wow, I don't know how Chrissie managed it but the feelings and thoughts of everyone affected by each of the scenario's was covered in a sensitive but real way.  It was a breath of fresh air to get the truth, not just what I call the 'public face'. What this book demonstrates in a huge way is that family, love and support has a bigger impact, providing greater support  than any amount of money and superficial friendships ever could.

I particularly loved Annabel's transformation more than any of the others.  She set out to use her birth family for her own ends, smooching and smoozing her way into their lives - wanting to take, only giving them what she had to, yet not realising they weren't quite buying her story and an overheard conversation puts paid to any headway she'd made. She had nothing but kindness and love shown to her yet still continued in her blinkered way but when the chips really were down they all rally to help each other, putting aside their own issues and feelings as only a family can and does - it is this that made the story so real for me.

A lovely book that's more about people, family and relationships than anything else.  The Christmas setting prompts the feeling of goodwill and friendship.  Christmas to most of us means, family, friendship, generosity and kindness - goodwill to all and Chrissie wraps up this story in the twinkle and bows of christmas - demonstrating that nothing is impossible with family and friends sharing the journey with you.

I look forward to reading more from Chris Manby in the future because this author delivers exactly what it says on the tin plus a lot more besides - thank you

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