You’re probably thinking: “Hey, it’s January and Christmas is over. So what’s up with Christmas on the Coast?”
Admittedly, I received this book when I was looking for Christmas stories to review and it slipped through the cracks. But honestly? I’m glad it did, because this book isn’t as much a Christmas story – it’s part of the setting, sure – as much as it is a wonderful work of historical fiction.
This is a book to be read any time of year. Curious? Read on!
Christmas on the Coast on November 21st 2017
Genres: historical fiction
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Can the secrets of the past be forgiven this Christmas?
Christmas is approaching on the island of Jersey, but Libby is feeling far from festive. Her police work and duties as vicar’s wife weigh heavily on her, she’s anxious about her troubled children, and now her best friend, Stella, has suddenly turned against her, citing a mysterious family grudge.
Libby is devastated by Stella’s unexpected coldness. But then her father shows her a diary written by her great-aunt Queenie, which sheds light on a long-hidden secret—one rooted in love, loyalty and betrayal. Writing during the Nazi occupation of Jersey in the winter of 1941, Queenie reveals a community torn apart by illicit romance, heartbreak and revenge—and by dark acts of fear and desperation.
The more Libby immerses herself in Queenie’s journal, the more she understands why its secrets still haunt her family and Stella’s. Christmas is a time of forgiveness, but is the treachery of their shared past too shameful to be forgotten?
Confession time: with the chaos of Christmas, I got behind on some of my reading and this book sadly was put by the wayside. I was frustrated I didn’t get to it in time to add it to my Christmas reads – until I read it, and realized that it’s really timeless. As I mentioned above – while the story is set at Christmas, it’s just that – a setting. The real meat and potatoes of Christmas on the Coast works outside of it, and it is a delight.
This book is perfect for those who are fans of dual timeline stories. If you love history, and WWII history in particular, this tale explores a part that I was woefully unaware of – the Nazi occupation of Jersey around 1941.
This story is told from two viewpoints. The first is that of the over-accommodating Libby, the vicar’s wife. A people pleaser and a conflict avoider, she’s overwhelmed by work and the demands of her children. (I’d probably be frustrated by her character if I didn’t relate so much.) She is frantically preparing for the Christmas holiday in Jersey, Channel Islands, when her mom suffers an injury and needs her help. As she’s tying up loose ends to leave home for a few days and dealing with her demanding family, she suffers a falling out with her best friend Stella.
It’s unknown to her the reason for the falling out or why her friend feels betrayed. Her parents, however, have a better idea why her friend has suddenly turned on her and encourage Libby to read her great-aunt Queen’s journal to understand family history.
The other half of Christmas on the Coast is told through the teenage Queenie as the island of Jersey is occupied by the Nazis, and she and her family see life as they know it change. Despite the hardships caused by the occupation, the resilience, bravery and spirit of the locals shines through. The source of the betrayal and subsequent grudge carried by Stella’s family is slowly revealed as Queenie’s tale is shared.
Libby was an interesting, relatable character who is taken for granted and taken advantage of by her children and her work. Her parents were utterly delightful characters. Where Libby is drowning in the chaos of her life, Queenie is grace and hope. The two stories weave neatly together but it was the historical aspects, the story of Queenie and her family, and all they endured that really sucked me into the story.
My only quibble is with the speed of Stella’s rejection of their life-long friendship upon learning the reason behind the family grudge. I realize that learning about the source of the rift was key to the story, but I struggled with how fast she put up a wall and shut Libby out.
This is so much more than a sweet Christmas tale. It’s a story of resiliency and bravery, of the grudges families hold, of misunderstandings, and ultimately, one of forgiveness.
This post contains affiliate links. Many thanks to Netgalley and to Lake Union Publishing for providing me with a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.