When Sybil is invited by her friend Cher to spend a few days in Tindale, a tiny village where Cher and her partner Clive run the local pub, Sybil jumps at the chance. Lately, all Sybil has done is mope about how tragic her life is; her fiancé ran out on her – on their wedding day no less, and to make it worse he ran off with her identical twin sister; the mounting debt from the wedding that never was is still having to be dealt with and to top it all off Sybil seriously believes that she has made a giant cock-up at work which will cost the great British taxpayer £42,000 – whoopsie.
Yes the best thing for Sybil is to get away from it all. However, what Sybil soon realises is that country life is a lot more complex than the anonymity that London affords. Sybil is quickly immersed in the ways of the close knit community and soon has to deal with the fact that everybody – absolutely everybody has their own demons to deal with.
Having previously read books by Alexandra Brown I was immediately put at ease because I knew I was in for a treat. Brown always manages to find the heart of the story an make you fall in love – not only with the characters but with their stories, their problems and their sheer will power. My favourite thing about Brown’s writing is her ability to make me fall in love with her settings. I am not one for the quiet country life and will always be a city girl but I could imagine myself living in the sleepy town of Tindale and – shock horror – being happy there. Kudos to you, Alexandra Brown.
Another thing that I really enjoy about Brown’s writing – and something that she has expressed especially well in The Great Christmas Knit Off – is how she captures real life problems. She doesn’t overwhelm you with sadness and heartbreak but she reveals the inner strength of her characters and it becomes inspiring. The way the community rallied around Hettie in her hour of need shows the warmth and generosity of people which we sometimes forget about. She also manages to have inherently flawed characters that remain likeable. You could argue that Sybil has a classic case of avoidance about her own problems yet even though she buries her head in the sand she still has the time and good grace to help others in need.
It is these key features that are at the heart of Alexandra Brown’s novels and it is also why I absolutely love picking them up to read.
The Great Christmas Knit Off by Alexandra Brown is available November 6th, 2014.
You can follow Alexandra Brown on Twitter @alexbrownbooks