Fiction

The Christmas Lights by Karen Swan

The Christmas Lights

Let’s first appreciate the book’s gorgeous cover, shall we? I must admit I am usually immune (read utterly oblivious) to books’ covers but this one really appealed to me and drew me in.

Maybe it’s the festive period, maybe it’s the stars or the northern lights… or maybe it’s the recent trip to Canadian Rockies.. who knows, I love this cover. 😊 What do you think?

Let’s start with the GoodReads blurb:

December 2018, and free-spirited influencers Bo Loxley and her partner Zac are living a life of wanderlust, travelling the globe and sharing their adventures with their millions of fans. Booked to spend Christmas in the Norwegian fjords, they set up home in a remote farm owned by enigmatic mountain guide Anders and his fierce grandmother Signy. Surrounded by snowy peaks and frozen falls, everything should be perfect. But the camera can lie and with every new post, the ‘perfect’ life Zac and Bo are portraying is diverging from the truth. Something Bo can’t explain is wrong at the very heart of their lives and Anders is the only person who’ll listen.

June 1936, and fourteen-year old Signy is sent with her sister and village friends to the summer pastures to work as milkmaids, protecting the herd that will sustain the farm through the long, winter months. But miles from home and away from the safety of their families, threat begins to lurk in friendly faces . . .

The mountains keep secrets – Signy knows this better than anyone – and as Bo’s life begins to spiral she is forced, like the old woman before her, to question who is friend and who is foe.

I was intrigued by both the book’s premise as well as its settings. I am slightly curious about social media ‘influencers’ and wanted to hear Swan‘s take on them. That as well as me being able to read endless books featuring Norwegian fjords! 😉

Let’s first talk about the pace. I must admit, I found the book’s beginning slightly on the slow side and it took me a while to get into it. Once I got involved though, I could not put it down. I read and read and then read some more. And yes, I was utterly bleary-eyed the next day, courtesy of The Christmas Lights. Sadly, I found the ending slightly disappointing, mainly due to being able to guess what was about to happen. It did not spoil the overall impact the book left though as it was an entertaining ride!

There are two story-lines that intertwine throughout the book. There is the present narrative told by Bo, a social media influencer. The second story-line is set in 1936 and is voiced by Signy, a young shepherd girl. Both female protagonists have to face danger – Bo is facing an online stalker whilst Signy is on a lookout for a dangerous animal.

It took me a while to warm up to Bo. It becomes quite clear from the beginning, that Bo has a lot of unresolved issues, some of which include dealing with a terrible loss. Her solution is to get distracted by escaping to new places. Bo is a part of a couple called The Wanderlusters – the ‘action’ duo that travels the world whilst embracing daring adventures, as well as promoting products from their sponsors on the way. I found her character self-indulgent, sometimes borderline annoying… yet also vulnerable and kind. There was definitely a mixture of emotions Bo triggered in me and I appreciated that she was complex and not entirely likeable as that made her feel more real.

I also enjoyed how Swan touched on what gets presented on some Instagram feeds and how reality vs. what is shown on social media, can sometimes be two very different things.

Signy‘s story appealed to me as her character is both feisty as well as modest. Signy is a fourteen year old girl, who learned very early in life, how to live in austere conditions and who loves animals she is in charge of. I found her story very poetic but also raw and brutal at times. It’s not just the wilderness that brings danger and Signy needs to learn very quickly whom to trust.

I thought the atmosphere was excellent.  I especially loved the harshness of wintery Norwegian fjords, full of serene solidarity as well as hidden dangers.

I also started feeling quite giddy about the upcoming festive period. I dreamt about lights that shine through those dark nights as well as those delightful smells of mulled wine and gingerbread that usually surround Christmas markets, and all those wonderful feelings that come with this time of year.

I recommend this book to those, who are after an adventure, who appreciate a little bit of a love story and who want to get into a festive mood. It is a charming holiday read that may just keep you awake at night as you may want to read that next page! 😊

I would like to thank to both the publisher, Pan Macmillan as well as the author, for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.


Now over to you! Do you enjoy festive reads? And is The Christmas Lights something that appeals to you? 

As always, I really want to know. 😊