Lead Review

  • Book: Christmas for Beginners
  • Location: Buckinghamshire
  • Author: Carole Matthews

Review Author: Tina Hartas



I first met dear Molly when I read Happiness for Beginners. A wonderful and caring woman who looks after life’s waifs and strays, both human and animal. Her farm, Hope Farm, may have relocated but once again we trundle the fields with her, as she looks after the curious selection of animals that have found their way into her tender care. She also encourages young people, who have lost their way in life, to come to her sanctuary, where she can help them acclimatise to a new and hopefully more fulfilling life.

As the novel opens, the alpaca trio – Johnny Rotten, Tina Turner and Rod Stewart – have devoured Baby Jesus who was destined for the Nativity. The Open Day is looming, Christmas is around the corner and things could really be going a little more smoothly.

Molly is still in her relationship with Shelby, TV actor and doyen of screen and (soon-to-be) stage, whose home is in a real manor, with butler and accoutrements. She meanwhile resides in a rather basic caravan. Added to which, Lucas, Shelby’s son, is living with her and she is a kind of surrogate mum, prioritising his needs as Shelby is otherwise engaged in the demanding world of acting. He has a pivotal part in a TV soap that has brought him fame and fortune and sometimes unwelcome attention. Their relationship – he to the manor born (well, not quite but you know what I mean) and she living perfectly happily in a ramshackle caravan, surrounded by all her animals – certainly comes under stress.

This is an uplifting novel – just what we need for these Covid times – full of positive energy and caring people, although the author does not shy away from addressing life issues that blight the lives of many people. She is clearly averse to the HS2 project which has driven a devastating hammer blow to the lives of many living along the route and has destroyed valuable natural heritage, enabling people between London and Birmingham to perhaps trim their journey time by  20 minutes. But at what cost? That cost, in part, is Hope Farm, which had to be relocated because of the construction works.

In these times – with Christmas in striking distance – this is a heart warming and life affirming book, highlighting that love and care do in fact make the world go round.

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Enter the 2021TripFiction 'Sense of Place' Creative Writing Competition! Entries close 6th November

A story in which the location plays as important a role as the rest of your words.

2,500 word maximum, 750 word minimum

Judges include Victoria Hislop and Rosanna Ley

First Prize of £1,000 / US$1,350

Prizes total £1,750 / US$2,362 

Winning entry published on TripFiction site and publicised on Social Media