Book Review: A Snow Garden and Other Stories by Rachel Joyce

A Snow Garden and Other Stories
by Rachel Joyce

Publication date: 23rd November 2016
Publisher: Black Swan (first published November 5th 2015)
Pages: 224


As read on Radio 4, seven linked stories set in the Christmas holidays – all as funny, joyous, poignant and memorable as Christmas should be:

A Faraway Smell of Lemon: The School Term has ended. It is almost Christmas but Binny, out last-minute shopping couldn’t feel less like wishing glad tidings to all men. Ducking out of the rain she finds herself in the sort of shop she would never normally visit.

The Marriage Manual: Christmas Eve. Two parents endeavour to construct their son’s Christmas present from a DIY kit and in the process find themselves deconstructing their marriage.

Christmas at the Airport: A glitch in the system, travellers stranded and all sorts of lives colliding in the face of a sudden birth…

The Boxing Day Ball: Maureen has never been out with the local girls before. Who knew that a disco in the Village Hall could be life-changing?

A Snow Garden: Two little boys, dumped with their divorced father for his share of the Christmas holidays and none of them with a clue how to enjoy it.

I’ll Be Home for Christmas The most famous boy in the world comes home hoping to escape the madness with a normal family Christmas.

Trees: As if Christmas wasn’t wearing enough, now his elderly parent is asking for a hole in the ground … Father and son break old habits and plant a tree to mark the start of the new year.

Source: Goodreads


I read these festive stories over a couple of weeks in December. Each of the seven stories are set over the Christmas period and are focused on normal people with pretty normal lives.

“We are at the centre of our own stories. And sometimes it is hard to believe that we are not at the centre of other people’s. But I love the fact that you can brush past a person with your own story so big in your mind and at the same time be a simple passer-by in someone else’s.”

This book is short and sweet with each story lasting approximately 30-40 pages. I’ve had mixed feelings about short stories in the past, but this particular set had me falling in love with the characters author Rachel Joyce has created.

All of the stories are different, some better than others, but they are all linked in some way, usually through something small that puts a smile on your face.

I was particularly fond of “Christmas Day at the Airport”, in which an airport is found overcrowded and under-prepared for severe delays on Christmas morning. Among the frustrated passengers is a heavily pregnant lady and a family with the surname King and I’m sure you can imagine how this story plays out!

Of these stories, I wasn’t so keen on “The Boxing Day Ball” which felt a little out of place for me. It’s said to be a prequel to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, but I won’t let my lack of connection with this story put me off Joyce’s other works. 

Overall rating: A lovely collection of quaint short stories set over the Christmas period. Beautifully written and easy to read, these stories have put me in a festive mood. It wasn’t perfect, but still a very good 4 stars.

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