by Ruby Jackson
HarpersCollins Publishers, London, 2014
Age group: teen to adult
Format: 387 page paperback
Our local library recently had a sale of some books they wanted to get rid of (not that I understand a library getting rid of books!). I looked thoroughly and found one or two Christmas books to grab! Jackson’s a Christmas Gift was not as predictable as expected, I’m pleased to report.
Sally Brewer and her friends had a happy life in a town called Dartford until World War II broke out. Sally’s dreams of going to performing school were dashed with war closures. However, she ended up with a job in Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA).
The book follows Sally as she learns to perform and entertain soldiers during the war. At the same time, she is learning about relationships and living away from her loving parents and safe community.
To start with, this book has little to do with Christmas or Christmas gifts. Disappointingly, it’s more a love story than a Christmas book.
I think the most interesting part of this story for me was learning about ENSA and what it was like for those performers entertaining the troops in Britain and France. I would like to know more about their time in France, but it would have risked some repetition to share more stories of the bases and the journeys in between.
The book explores various relationships. As well as the usual boy-meets-girl interactions, there are performer jealousies, grief at war losses, and learning to live in a city rather than a protected family town. The love at first sight elements are enhanced by the risk of being torn apart by war at any moment, but are still a little much. Although I felt a question over who Sally would end up with, and that kept things more interesting.
It was only when I reached the end that I realised this was the third book in a series of four books! So you can definitely read this as a stand alone book, or try the series to get a fuller picture (and more details about Sally’s friends). If you are interested, the series order is: http://www.fishpond.com.au/product_info.php?ref=4691&id=9780007506293
- Churchill’s Angels – featuring the four Dartford girls, and Daisy’s dream of being a pilot
- Wave me goodbye – featuring Grace in the Land Army
- A Christmas gift – featuring Sally in ENSA
- On a wing and a prayer – featuring Rose in the Women’s Auxiliary Service, or ATS
It was easy to read and not too complex. A Christmas gift perhaps to us as a reminder of how lucky we are, and how much we owe our defence personnel for our freedoms. Or maybe I am just appreciative on Remembrance Day.
Overall, this book is vivid and gives a good feel of 1940s London life. Jackson gives us a saga of hope, deep friendship, family ties, change and the power of love, and a wonderful character called Sebastian. He is the type of friend we all wish for!
Would I recommend it? Yes, A Christmas gift is a nice story. If you like romances, this is definitely worth a read. Not so much if you are after a Christmas story. It is interesting and has some historical attraction, so it’s a good light read.