This novel, apparently a wartime saga about a group of girls working and living together, is taken a step further by this exciting and dramatic plot. A group of Land Girls has already been set up, with their romances, hard work and fearsome situations, living in and near a small town, in previous novels. In this book the land girls become dispersed, with two members moving to a distant village and farms which are indeterminate distances away from habitation. New characters are added which show different sides of the wartime experience. While there are shortages of some basics, absent friends and other elements of the wartime experience, this is not a war novel as such, but there is much to involve a reader with an interest in the period.
Joyce is one of the strongest characters in the previous novels, as she is a sensible and sympathetic land girl, working on farms where she has much experience and knowledge. Her romantic relationship does not feature heavily in this book, but her security allows her to understand and help others. She chooses to go further afield, to a farm where the farmer is taciturn and has a much younger, silent wife. Brenda also continues to be the most mobile land girl, for while she has found an isolated farm with a farmer and his spoilt daughter she also manages to retain and use her trusty motor bike. The worse tragedy happens involving a friend, and she can only remain steadfast in the face of sorrow. The two girls become involved in the life of the very small village, with a charming young vet and others. There is a rather stern Vicar, who is housing an evacuee with problems. One of the new characters introduced is Evelyn, a worker with the trees and countryside around. As with many of these books, dramatic events punctuate the book, with a rather exciting climax.
This is a genuinely engaging book, which keeps the reader thoroughly involved and intrigued. This type of book depends on the strength of the characters, and this book succeeds apparently effortlessly in making the reader feel invested in the people in this story. The characters are varied, with all their faults and strengths well described, and feel very human. Even the minor characters on the edge of the narrative have their interest and value, from their reactions to events and their development. The plot is simple, where even minor events assume great significance as they affect people that the reader feels genuine interest and involvement with throughout the book. Other characters from the previous novels make their entrances, especially as they coincide with Joyce and Brenda. Social events, emergencies and upheavals see people discovering much about other people, not always positive traits, but also some great strengths. Despite the title it is certainly about far more than the immediate Christmas season being more about a period of several months in local lives. This allows the situations and characters to really develop, and it is certainly not limited to a sentimental season. I enjoyed this book immensely, even the bleak parts, and I recommend it as a good, fairly escapist read.
As Christmas Eve is fast approaching, I have decided to keep posting reviews over the holiday period. This may be because I am addicted, or maybe it is because I know that despite the adverts and tv specials, not everyone has a Christmas filled with family and friends. Having endured some pretty horrible Christmas seasons I know that it sometimes good to be distracted, even if you cannot immediately buy the books (though with the power of the internet…) that I review or check your library for borrowing possibilities. So, do have a good Christmas wherever you are, whatever you wish for, and however you spend it!