I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions and expressed here are my own.
This one’s the ninth book in the entire series and the fifth one I’ve read because I started in the middle and never really went back to read the previous books. Oh and I read the previous instalment right when lockdown had started and called it just the kind of book we need right now.
Did this next instalment measure up? Read on to find out.
Sunderland, 1943: As Christmas approaches in the shipyards, everyone is hoping for a little magic…
Helen would love to find the courage to tell the dashing Dr Parker of her true feelings for him. But how can she when he clearly has eyes for someone else?
More than a year has passed since Bel’s wedding to sweetheart Joe. She knows she has much to feel thankful for and yet there is still one burning desire which she cannot ignore.
And as Polly grows with child, she hopes against hope for a safe delivery – and that her husband Tommy can soon return from the front line to meet their new arrival.
There will be storms to weather, but guided by their strength and friendship there is still hope for each of the shipyard girls that their Christmas wishes will come true.
Trigger warning: On-page rape
This instalment starts where the last one left off. Helen still hasn’t confessed her feelings to Dr. Parker but walks in on him kissing his colleague, Dr. Eris. Pearl’s shocked to find out that her ex-employer may very well still be alive, Polly is about to pop, and Bel really, really wants more kids.
Much like the other books in the series, A Christmas Wish is also full of sisterhood and spirit. I tend to gravitate towards bleak and melancholic fiction more but I indulge in the occasional saga novel mostly because of how indomitable their main characters are and how everyone has their back. I somehow never have trouble suspending my disbelief with these novels when friends and family selflessly rally around a character in trouble.
In this instalment too, there are such selfless acts. There is also drama despite it being this late in the series. What can I say, Nancy has enough characters to plot around!
But I did have a couple of problems.
The first was about the new character, Dr. Eris. I myself have called this series feminist before, but it got on my nerves that Dr. Eris was written just to keep Helen away from the guy she was interested in. I love conniving women but please, not this way. Also the angsty will-they/won’t-they was cute in the past couple of books but it’s been a while. There’s only so much pining a girl can take. Chop chop, move on.
The second — and my biggest problem — with this book was the use of the phrase “coloured person” to describe a POC in the book. Granted, it was other characters thinking of her while saying it, but oh my Gods, it’s 2020! It’s a dated, racist phrase and I don’t care if the book is historical fiction, it was insensitive.
I don’t remember if Maisie was described as such in any of the previous instalments. I’d like to think I’d have noticed (and a big whack around my head if I didn’t!). This made me really, really uncomfortable, to the point where I was doing a full-body cringe each time I remembered the use of the phrase. She’s definitely a well-written character but this phrase was so totally avoidable.
I understand it could have been used because while it’s an antiquated phrase now, it would fit the times the story is set in. But this is also a series which only in the last book tackled themes like economic empowerment through sex work, something quite uncharacteristic of the time it’s set in. The same leeway should have been extended towards describing POC as well instead of going for dated, insensitive terms.
These problems and pacing issues meant I wasn’t as interested in this book as I was with the previous ones. It’s been quite a long series and it’s beginning to show in the writing as well. While diving back into the world of these feminist shipyard girls was fun, I’m not sure I’m very interested in returning with the next novel.