Review: 'It's a Wonderful Life' by Julia Williams (2016)
Christmas with the family. Cosy, relaxing…and a total nightmare?
Driving home for Christmas, Beth has everything she wants. The kids and the house, the career and the husband. So why is it that when the New Year comes, she can’t stop thinking about her old college boyfriend?
Her husband Daniel is tasked with bringing a struggling school up to scratch, but when family life catches up to him, can he be a good father and a good teacher at the same time?
Beth’s sister Lou has just been dumped…again. Single and childless, she can’t help but be jealous of her sibling’s success. But is the grass really always greener?
I think the book cover of author Julia Williams' 'It's a Wonderful Life' is one of the 2016 covers that makes me feel most festive and like I can't wait for Christmas to be finally here. I don't know what it is exactly, but I suspect it also has something to do with the fact that I've read one of the authors other books, namely 'Coming Home for Christmas', and I really enjoyed that one. Needless to say, based on my previous experiences with this author and the colourful festive book cover, I was hoping for a great read, so I had my fingers crossed...!
Beth should be happy with her life, she knows that. She loves her job illustrating books for children and has a wonderful husband, Daniel, and family. But when she's struggling to find inspiration for her latest story and things between her and Daniel seem a bit strained, she somehow can't stop thinking about her old college crush Jack who has made a sudden reappearance in her life. At the same time Daniel is struggling with his new job as Head Teacher, Beth's sister Lou once again finds herself breaking up with someone and wondering whether she will ever get her life in order, and then their parents also decide to drop a big bombshell on the whole family... It seems the new year has quite a lot in store for all of them; the question is: will they be able to all fix what needs to be fixed before next Christmas?
I love books that focus on groups of people, such as a family or a close-knit group of friends, and tell the story from different points of view. Julia Williams' 'It's a Wonderful Life' does just that by placing the spotlight on main characters Beth, her husband Daniel, and her sister Lou. We start off at Christmas, when their family time is interrupted by something quite big, something that affects all of them. We then go into the new year and for 12 months we follow Beth, Daniel and Lou, who each have a captivating plotline and their stories are all brought together in a lovely way. While the novel didn't turn out to be as Christmas focused as I initially expected, I can forgive the author for this because the book is just a great read, with or without a specific focus on that festive spirit.
I felt the characters were really quite realistic, especially because all of them had both positive and negative personality traits. I think I personally liked Lou the most, but I enjoyed all storylines and could easily keep on reading without wanting to put the book down, thanks to the author's well-paced and great writing style that immediately drew me in. So even though this wasn't precisely the read I was expecting based on the Christmassy cover, the novel managed to surprise me in a good way and I enjoyed every page of it. On the whole, 'It's a Wonderful Life' is a heart-warming and captivating story about family, love, and discovering what really matters; a wonderful novel, suitable for any time of the year!