Friday, 20 January 2017

Read in 2017 - 2: Driving Home for Christmas

This was the last of my 2016 Christmas reads - I started it just before Christmas, but finished it only a few days ago.
It still fitted my mood, not only because Christmas was just a few short weeks ago, but also because of the weather: We've had snow, fog, more snow and sun, and it is freezing cold.

In "Driving Home for Christmas" by Emma Hannigan, we meet the Craig family. They and their house in the countryside near Wicklow (Ireland), Huntersbrook, are the main characters.
Paddy and Holly are the middle-aged parents, running the country house by hosting hunts, renting out their stables to rich customers and leasing their land to nearby sheep farmers and others.
Their three children Lainey, Joey and Pippa all live and work in Dublin, but are frequent house guests back home with Mum & Dad.
Then there is Maggie, Holly's 80-year-old mother, who last year very suddenly left Huntersbrook to follow her lover to his Australian home. Last but not least, Sadie is the one who, along with Holly, keeps the house spic and span and food on the table.

This year, Holly approaches Christmas with mixed feelings. She loves this time of year and adores all the decorating and so on, but it will be the first time without her mother, whom she has not really forgiven for upping sticks and going to live on the other side of the world.
Also, there are financial worries; if the effects of the recession keep getting worse, she seriously will have to consider selling Huntersbrook, the Georgian country pile which has been home to her family for several generations.
She keeps all her worries hidden from her family, determined to give them the best Christmas ever, even if it should be their last one here.

The grown-up children have troubles of their own: Lainey is still suffering after being dumped by her boyfriend. The growing friendship with a new colleague at work makes her realise a lot about herself, and truly changes her life.
Joey's girlfriend is a personal trainer and sports fanatic who does not like country life one bit. The meals at Huntersbrook are inconsolable with her extremely strict health regime, and she feels like an alien among Joey's family. Getting away with him for Christmas therefore seems a great idea... to her, but not to Joey.
Pippa, the youngest, is a living Barbie doll who has no grip of real life whatsoever. She thinks she can walk over people, spend money that is not hers, dress always in the latest fashion in spite of not having a proper job, and still get away with it. For a while, it seems so, but then events take a turn for the worse, reality hits, and she has to grow up and face her situation like she has never done before.

A lot of what happens in this book is foreseeable, but there are some unexpected twists, too. There is humour, and a rather realistic depiction of friendships and family relations, where everything is not always what it looks like on the surface.
The characters develop - maybe with the exception of Paddy, who remains the good, solid husband and father in the background, seemingly without much going on with him.
I didn't like Pippa; even when she did come to her senses and finally took some responsibility for her own life, I was not reconciled, as she still came across very much the spoiled brat. With Lainey and Joey I could sympathise, and even with Holly to an extent.

The descriptions of Christmas preparations and the actual festivities were nice and not so over the top as to be unlikely.

Altogether, this was a pleasant and engaging read, editing was good, and should I happen to come across another Huntersbrook novel, I would read it just to know what happened next in the lives of the Craig family.

If you like, you can watch the author introduce her novel in a short video here:


  1. Sounds like a quick enjoyable read, but it's not available on kindle in the US.
    Did you read it as a "real" book?

    1. No, it was a free ebook in Amazon's kindle shop one or two years ago. It wasn't all that quick, actually - which is why it took me from since before Christmas until the first week of January to complete it.

  2. It sounds good, but not sure I could stand Pippa! Also, it doesn't seem like a very Irish name. It seems like one of those solid English names like Cecil and Nigel. ;<)

    1. The author is Irish, as far as I know, so I guess the names she chose for her characters reflect names she is familiar with in her life.
      Your comment prompted me to look up her homepage, and what I found there was astonishing and moving:

    2. Oh! I went and looked at here website, Meike and I see what you mean! She is a cancer survivor and one who is positive and funny and my kind of gal. I left her a message on her contact page and also visited her blog. Thanks for having this review here. She also wrote a book of nonfiction..."Talk To The Headscarf", and you know that is the book for me! :-)

    3. I saw the "Headscarf" book on her website, too, and I am not surprised you are most interested in that one :-)
      Let me know when/if she replies to you, I think it is always wonderful when an author replies to one of my messages, and some have even commented on here.

    4. I also watched the video and she made me smile and chuckle, and that is always a good thing!

    5. Yes, it takes something, doesn't it, to make people smile and chuckle when you have a life like Emma Hannigan.