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A Snow Garden and Other Stories

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Seven stories to span the Christmas holidays: A Faraway Smell of Lemon: The School Term has ended. It is almost Christmas but Binny, out last-minute shopping couldn't feel less like wishing glad tidings to all men. Ducking out of the rain she finds herself in the sort of shop she would never normally visit. The Marriage Manual: Christmas Eve. Two parents endeavour to constru Seven stories to span the Christmas holidays: A Faraway Smell of Lemon: The School Term has ended. It is almost Christmas but Binny, out last-minute shopping couldn't feel less like wishing glad tidings to all men. Ducking out of the rain she finds herself in the sort of shop she would never normally visit. The Marriage Manual: Christmas Eve. Two parents endeavour to construct their son’s Christmas present from a DIY kit and in the process find themselves deconstructing their marriage. Christmas at the Airport: A glitch in the system, travellers stranded and all sorts of lives colliding in the face of a sudden birth... The Boxing Day Ball: Maureen has never been out with the local girls before. Who knew that a disco in the Village Hall could be life-changing? A Snow Garden: Two little boys, dumped with their divorced father for his share of the Christmas holidays and none of them with a clue how to enjoy it. I'll Be Home for Christmas The most famous boy in the world comes home hoping to escape the madness with a normal family Christmas. Trees: As if Christmas wasn't wearing enough, now his elderly parent is asking for a hole in the ground … Father and son break old habits and plant a tree to mark the start of the new year. Six stories as funny, joyous, poignant and memorable as Christmas should be.


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Seven stories to span the Christmas holidays: A Faraway Smell of Lemon: The School Term has ended. It is almost Christmas but Binny, out last-minute shopping couldn't feel less like wishing glad tidings to all men. Ducking out of the rain she finds herself in the sort of shop she would never normally visit. The Marriage Manual: Christmas Eve. Two parents endeavour to constru Seven stories to span the Christmas holidays: A Faraway Smell of Lemon: The School Term has ended. It is almost Christmas but Binny, out last-minute shopping couldn't feel less like wishing glad tidings to all men. Ducking out of the rain she finds herself in the sort of shop she would never normally visit. The Marriage Manual: Christmas Eve. Two parents endeavour to construct their son’s Christmas present from a DIY kit and in the process find themselves deconstructing their marriage. Christmas at the Airport: A glitch in the system, travellers stranded and all sorts of lives colliding in the face of a sudden birth... The Boxing Day Ball: Maureen has never been out with the local girls before. Who knew that a disco in the Village Hall could be life-changing? A Snow Garden: Two little boys, dumped with their divorced father for his share of the Christmas holidays and none of them with a clue how to enjoy it. I'll Be Home for Christmas The most famous boy in the world comes home hoping to escape the madness with a normal family Christmas. Trees: As if Christmas wasn't wearing enough, now his elderly parent is asking for a hole in the ground … Father and son break old habits and plant a tree to mark the start of the new year. Six stories as funny, joyous, poignant and memorable as Christmas should be.

30 review for A Snow Garden and Other Stories

  1. 5 out of 5

    Magdalena

    “We are at the centre of our own stories. And sometimes it is hard to believe that we are not at the centre of other people’s. But I love the fact that you can brush past a person with your own story so big in your mind and at the same time be a simple passer-by in someone else’s. A walk-on part.” Rachel Joyce gives a master class in how to write a short story compilation in A Snow Garden And Other Stories. All seven story interlink but at the same time they're all different and each of them has “We are at the centre of our own stories. And sometimes it is hard to believe that we are not at the centre of other people’s. But I love the fact that you can brush past a person with your own story so big in your mind and at the same time be a simple passer-by in someone else’s. A walk-on part.” Rachel Joyce gives a master class in how to write a short story compilation in A Snow Garden And Other Stories. All seven story interlink but at the same time they're all different and each of them has its own unique plot. Beautifully written, tragic at times yet warm and humorous, deeply emotional with interesting and relatable characters those stories are truly touching and memorable. Highly recommended!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Amalia Gkavea

    Extremely disappointed with this collection. I expected so much more from Rachel Joyce. This one was full of unsympathetic characters (which is fine by me but to everything there is a limit and in this case I’ve had enough with women and men who were either whining or screaming or crying hysterically), stories about troubled relationships, troubled marriages, love troubles, shopping troubles and troubles in general and an exhausting repetition of how we perceive Christmas in our times. Also the Extremely disappointed with this collection. I expected so much more from Rachel Joyce. This one was full of unsympathetic characters (which is fine by me but to everything there is a limit and in this case I’ve had enough with women and men who were either whining or screaming or crying hysterically), stories about troubled relationships, troubled marriages, love troubles, shopping troubles and troubles in general and an exhausting repetition of how we perceive Christmas in our times. Also the story with Jesus as a young boy was highly offensive, in my opinion. I mean who uses the term ‘’Winter Celebration’’ instead of ‘Christmas’? This was definitely incompatible with what I perceive to be a well-written short story.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Bolton

    “We are at the centre of our own stories. And sometimes it is hard to believe that we are not at the centre of other people’s.” I am not a great fan of the short story, finding it tantalizing but incomplete, unsatisfying somehow, and I’d rarely pick up a collection of short stories, even by a writer as talented as Rachel Joyce (The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry). But the idea behind this collection is so simple, and yet so brilliant, that I’m almost certainly going to steal it one day soon. “We are at the centre of our own stories. And sometimes it is hard to believe that we are not at the centre of other people’s.” I am not a great fan of the short story, finding it tantalizing but incomplete, unsatisfying somehow, and I’d rarely pick up a collection of short stories, even by a writer as talented as Rachel Joyce (The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry). But the idea behind this collection is so simple, and yet so brilliant, that I’m almost certainly going to steal it one day soon. What Joyce has done, is take characters that have only minor, walk-on parts in her other books, or even had to be cut altogether, and told their stories in greater detail. There are seven in total, with Christmas as the bright, silvery thread that holds them together. In A Faraway Smell of Lemon, Binny is running from the over-zealous PTA mum (we all know one!) and finds herself in a shop she’d never normally visit. In The Marriage Manual, Alan and Alice try to make their son a gift from a DIY kit and find themselves deconstructing their marriage. In A Boxing Day Ball, a disco at the village hall proves life-changing. The stories are simple, poignant, beautifully told with a gloss of the supernatural like Christmas frosting. A Snow Garden is out now, and makes the perfect gift, but if you take my advice, you’ll buy a copy for yourself, and save it for the holidays. Read one a day, curled up in front of the fire as the light fades outside, and rejoice in the knowledge that into every life come a million stories. We just have to find them.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Fictionophile

    Every once in a while you find a writer that seems to have a way with words that seems to speak directly to you, the reader. It is a talent coveted by many, and one that Rachel Joyce possesses. Her novels “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry“, “The love song of Miss Queenie Hennessey” and “Perfect” have all been favorites of mine. Now, with this book, she has written seven linked stories with a Christmas theme running throughout. It has to be said that I even enjoyed the forward. In it the auth Every once in a while you find a writer that seems to have a way with words that seems to speak directly to you, the reader. It is a talent coveted by many, and one that Rachel Joyce possesses. Her novels “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry“, “The love song of Miss Queenie Hennessey” and “Perfect” have all been favorites of mine. Now, with this book, she has written seven linked stories with a Christmas theme running throughout. It has to be said that I even enjoyed the forward. In it the author describes how the characters in this book were sort of ‘left-over’ from her other books. We readers get a tiny glimpse into the author’s mind and how she views the characters portrayed in her fiction. Peripheral characters in her other books whose appearance in them was very minimal, or cut out altogether. She cared enough about their stories that she felt they needed to be told. And I’m glad she did. A quote from the forward: “We are at the centre of our own stories. And sometimes it is hard to believe that we are not at the centre of other people’s. But I love the fact that you can brush past a person with your own story so big in your mind and at the same time be a simple passer-by in someone else’s. A walk-on part.” Of the seven linked stories in this volume, my favorite has to be “The snow garden” – the title story. It tells of a father who has temporary custody of his two sons over the holidays. He has separated from his wife, due in part, to the fact that he has experienced some mental illness in the form of hallucinations. The story portrays the difficulties and the joys, the promises and the uncertainties of being a parent. My favorite character of the seven stories has to be Binny, a forty-seven year old single mother. She is mentioned in both the first story, “The faraway smell of lemon” and the last one, “Trees“. Her live-in partner, Oliver, has just a few days before Christmas – left her… “His absence became a presence and she thought of nothing else”. The stories included in this volume are meticulously wrought, sincere tales of real life. With all of its sadness, joy, struggles, and achievements, they are above all, honest. They make the commonplace seem magical. They make the reader cry, laugh, and feel connected to their fellow humans in a way that makes fiction shine. Here are stories of love, marriage, parenthood, loneliness, despair, angst, and compassion. The characters depicted are so vividly described that you feel you have known them for a long time. “This was how it was, she thought. People would find one another, and sometimes it would last moments and sometimes it would last years.” I purchased this book on the strength of my liking of her other work, and, I felt that this would be the perfect time to read it. Highly recommended! I believe it will be especially appreciated by fans of Maeve Binchy, Rosamund Pilcher, Kate Morton, and the like.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cheri

    4.5 Stars A literary treasury of interconnected short stories which shared a variety of themes and emotions, a more genuine look at the holiday season than most I’ve read. These aren’t all happy-happy stories about the joys of the holiday season, which made me love this collection even more. In the Foreward, Joyce shares a story, a joke, about an actress playing the part of the nurse in Romeo and Juliet, and someone asking her what the play is about. Now the nurse is a nice part for an older wom 4.5 Stars A literary treasury of interconnected short stories which shared a variety of themes and emotions, a more genuine look at the holiday season than most I’ve read. These aren’t all happy-happy stories about the joys of the holiday season, which made me love this collection even more. In the Foreward, Joyce shares a story, a joke, about an actress playing the part of the nurse in Romeo and Juliet, and someone asking her what the play is about. Now the nurse is a nice part for an older woman. She gets a few laughs...But let’s face it, she’s only she only has a few scenes and she’s not Juliet..the actress thinks very carefully about how best to summarize the plot of Romeo and Juliet and then she says, “Well, it’s all about this nurse. ’We are at the centre of our own stories. And sometimes it is hard to believe that we are not at the centre of other people’s. But I love the fact that you can brush past a person with your own story so big in your mind and at the same time be a simple passer-by in someone else’s. A walk-on part.’ A beautifully crafted collection of very moving, emotional, amusing and compelling stories that I won’t soon forget.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Antoinette

    There is something very appealing about the stories in this collection. They are not the typical stories one expects at Christmas. There is a depth and a subtlety to them. There is a connection made in each story, whether it be a husband and wife, father and sons, strangers, family. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection. Rachel Joyce is a wonderful writer and she brings to life all these people that we get to meet. Definitely recommend this one.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    Rachel Joyce is the author of 2 of my favorite books in the past couple of years: "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye", and it's companion novel, "The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey". Both of those books were about normal people trying to live good lives, needing to make connections with others, and trying to do so in sometimes surprising ways. This is a book of short stories centered on the time between Christmas and New Years, 7 stories with seemingly nothing in common except the pictu Rachel Joyce is the author of 2 of my favorite books in the past couple of years: "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye", and it's companion novel, "The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey". Both of those books were about normal people trying to live good lives, needing to make connections with others, and trying to do so in sometimes surprising ways. This is a book of short stories centered on the time between Christmas and New Years, 7 stories with seemingly nothing in common except the picture of a girl in a red coat, an advertisement for something never named. But as each story reveals, there are sometimes connections we never know about with people we only see in passing, as strangers we never meet. There is some terrific humor in these stories as well, which I always love, and as a special surprise, "The Boxing Day Ball" features Maureen, a young girl going to her first dance, and meeting her future husband, Harold Frye. This was a great read at this time of year. December is always such a busy and fractured month for me, it was a pleasure to settle down with these stories at the end of each day. Recommended to all fans of Rachel Joyce.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    BABT http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06s8bsg Description: Rachel Joyce's new collection "A Snow Garden and Other Stories" glides through the festive season with interlinked stories which delight and surprise. From an unexpected birth at an airport full of stranded travellers, a famous son wanting to escape the madness for a normal family dinner, to a divorced father's wish to give his two little boys the one thing they really want, a white Christmas. Five stories as funny, joyous, poignant and me BABT http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06s8bsg Description: Rachel Joyce's new collection "A Snow Garden and Other Stories" glides through the festive season with interlinked stories which delight and surprise. From an unexpected birth at an airport full of stranded travellers, a famous son wanting to escape the madness for a normal family dinner, to a divorced father's wish to give his two little boys the one thing they really want, a white Christmas. Five stories as funny, joyous, poignant and memorable as Christmas should be. 1/5: A Faraway Smell of Lemon 2/5: A Snow Garden 3/5: I'll be Home for Christmas 4/5: Christmas Day at the Airport 5/5: Trees Rachel Joyce is the author of the Sunday Times and international bestsellers The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Perfect and The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and has been translated into 34 languages. She is the award-winning writer of over 30 original afternoon plays and classic adaptations for BBC Radio 4. Read by ..... Rachel Joyce Produced & Directed by ..... Gemma McMullan.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Marianne

    A Snow Garden is a volume of seven Christmas-themed short stories by award-winning British actress, radio playwright and author, Rachel Joyce, who explains that these are the characters who have been cut from other works: “Sometimes I picture all these characters stuffed in my (writing) caravan, making a nuisance of themselves, and the racket is quite something. So I loved the idea that I could clear them out, as it were, by giving them each a story of their own.” In A Faraway Smell of Lemons: It A Snow Garden is a volume of seven Christmas-themed short stories by award-winning British actress, radio playwright and author, Rachel Joyce, who explains that these are the characters who have been cut from other works: “Sometimes I picture all these characters stuffed in my (writing) caravan, making a nuisance of themselves, and the racket is quite something. So I loved the idea that I could clear them out, as it were, by giving them each a story of their own.” In A Faraway Smell of Lemons: It may be Christmas, but Binny’s life has fallen apart: the faulty shower, the broken glass pane in the front door, the smashed crockery on the kitchen floor, the unbought Christmas cards, food and gifts; it’s all Oliver’s fault. What sort of Christmas Binny’s children, Coco and Luke are going to get this year is anyone’s guess. Binny has just a few hours to fix it, and a staggering lack of enthusiasm for the task. Trying to avoid another school mother in the High Street, she slips into a shop that sells nothing Binny has ever wanted, but she somehow finds exactly what she needs. A sweet story that may well bring a tear to the eye. In The Marriage Manual: Alan and Alice are in their DIY conservatory assembling the racing bike that their son Will doesn’t want, on Christmas Eve. Theirs has always been described as a textbook marriage: their story is well-told; their routine is well-rehearsed. But this night, as Alan tries to construct the gift without legible instructions, Alice notices a crack in the wall of the conservatory; and the couple begin to depart from their script; uncomfortable truths are revealed. As certain walls come crashing down, they realise that even without an instruction manual, being married and bringing up children can work out OK. In Christmas Day at the Airport: the reader gets all the elements of a nativity scene, but not in the conventional sense. There is indeed a very pregnant young woman (Magda) and her partner, Jo(hanna), three kings (Mrs King and her two daughters), a donkey (among other animals), (shop assistants dressed as) angels, and lambs (fluffy-toy-type). Also six Santas and a choir. Probably not a messiah, though… In The Boxing Day Ball: eighteen-year-old Maureen is surprised by a genuine invitation from the local girls. They really seem to want her along, although her mother doesn’t approve. Maureen has no idea of just how life-changing a dance in the parish hall could be. In A Snow Garden: Henry, divorced, disconnected from his sons, has the boys for six days over Christmas while Debbie goes on vacation. He has promised Owen, a sweet, innocent ten, and Conor, a sometimes snarky fifteen, snow; he has even, to the amusement of his sister, bought them sleds, at a marked-down price (the weather is balmy, snow is definitely not predicted). Henry is at the point of despair when he sees a snow garden, and then is once again concerned for his sanity. In I’ll Be Home For Christmas: when busy, much-in-demand pop star X (formerly Tim) tells his mum he’ll be home for Christmas, he asks her not to make a fuss. But Sylvia is so looking forward to seeing him again, her teenaged son made good, the one thing that proves she’s the equal of her fancy sisters, that she goes a little overboard, and forgets (sort of) that she also has a daughter. In Trees: much to Sal’s annoyance, Oliver agrees to his elderly father’s request to bring trees. It’s New Year’s Eve, his pregnant girlfriend wants to party, but his father has decided he needs to plant twenty trees to atone. He’ll need to borrow his ex’s van, but Binny is kind, and Oliver finds himself wishing for the company and comfort of her home, what used to be his too, before he messed up his life. There are nebulous connections between the stories; main characters in one are glimpsed in another; and a red coat worn by a girl in the snow appears in each one. Seven little festive and heart-warming doses of Rachel Joyce.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Katie Lumsden

    Beautiful and moving - a great new release for Christmas!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I read five of the seven stories last December and then finished the book off this week. Two stand-outs were “The Boxing Day Ball,” a prequel to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, describing how Harold and Maureen met, and “A Faraway Smell of Lemon,” in which a woman mourning the end of her relationship wanders into a cleaning supplies store and learns the simple lesson that everybody hurts. (“Life is hard sometimes” – fair enough, but can we say it without a cliché?) “I’ll Be Home for Chris I read five of the seven stories last December and then finished the book off this week. Two stand-outs were “The Boxing Day Ball,” a prequel to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, describing how Harold and Maureen met, and “A Faraway Smell of Lemon,” in which a woman mourning the end of her relationship wanders into a cleaning supplies store and learns the simple lesson that everybody hurts. (“Life is hard sometimes” – fair enough, but can we say it without a cliché?) “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” is about the boy formerly known as Tim, now the mega pop star X. All he wants is a quiet few days back home, but he can’t seem to escape his reputation. Characters and little elements from previous stories reappear in later ones. My favorite was probably the title story, about a father trying to make the holidays perfect for his sons after his breakdown and divorce. Joyce chooses to write about ordinary and forgotten people, but sometimes her vision of chavvy types doesn’t quite ring true, and when she isn’t being melancholy she’s twee. “Christmas Day at the Airport” was so contrived it made me groan. While I don’t think any of her books are truly great, they’re pleasant, relatable and easy to read. Favorite lines: “There is much to do, much to prepare, much to mend, but it cannot be done in a day and sometimes it is better to do one small thing.” (from “A Faraway Smell of Lemon”) “The truth was, there were no instructions when you got married. There was no manual in the birthing suite that explained how to bring up a happy child. No one said, you do this, and then you do this, and after that this will happen. You made it up as you went along.” (from “The Marriage Manual”)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

    2.5 stars To be honest, I was hoping for a bit more. I liked some of the stories but most of them left me a bit underwhelmed.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    Originally posted on This Chick Reads *Copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review * ‘The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy’ was one of my favourite reads last year, so I was uber excited when I got Rachel Joyce’s new collection of short stories to read. As I’ve been reading Christmas books for the last month, I simply couldn’t wait to check these stories. ‘A Snow Garden and Short Stories’ is definitely a festive must read. It’s so unlike any other Christmas books I’ve ever re Originally posted on This Chick Reads *Copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review * ‘The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy’ was one of my favourite reads last year, so I was uber excited when I got Rachel Joyce’s new collection of short stories to read. As I’ve been reading Christmas books for the last month, I simply couldn’t wait to check these stories. ‘A Snow Garden and Short Stories’ is definitely a festive must read. It’s so unlike any other Christmas books I’ve ever read. There are seven stories included and each and one of them is so special and magical and nothing like the festive stories I’ve read so far. Unlike most Christmas, that are fluffy and cheery, ‘A Snow Garden and Other Stories’ brings seven stories that are so memorable and poignant. The characters felt so real I thought they’d jump off the pages. The stories are short yet amazingly complex and each one of them brings a huge message about life, family and love. And of course, all happen during Christmas and you can absolutely feel the Christmas spirit and that Christmas magic. The stories are full of clever symbolism, speaking about big life truths and making you think about your own life and the choices you make. I especially loved the first story, ‘A Faraway Smell of Lemon’ which got me crying big ugly tears. I found the story so emotional and heart breaking, I had tears rolling down my face while I imagined poor Binny and everything she’s going through. What I also loved is how clever they were all connected. Some of the characters who had their own story, would even for just briefly appear in the next one, entwining these stories into one beautiful and unique fictional world. I also loved the mysterious girl in red coat which appears in every story, either on a commercial, or a banner or in the garden. As these are short stories, they can’t be reviewed like a proper length novel and I won’t be able to tell you much about the plot as there would be spoilers. But what I will tell you is that it’s definitely a book you should all read. It’s truly a little gem you can not just read over Christmas, but go back to it whenever you feel down and overwhelmed by life. Whenever you feel disappointed, you can grab this little book and read any of the seven stories, and I guarantee you, you will be better and feel more energized after reading. The stories are sad, but at the same time very uplifting and best of all, they are so inspirational. Ms Joyce has a knack for creating amazing fictional worlds in which you feel at home. I was breathing and feeling together with Binny and Oliver, Alan and Alice, Magda and Johanna and all the other brilliant characters, learning some valuable lessons about life, family, marriage and the small everyday things which people sometimes take for granted. Amazing collection of short stories from the pen of an amazingly talented writer, ‘A Snow Garden and other Stories’ is a book I recommend to everyone. I devoured it in one sitting and I was so sad to say good bye to all the amazing characters. Fascinating characters, clever writing and thought provoking stories, this book has everything every reader loves. Step into the magical snow garden, and enjoy!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mo

    I really liked that these stories were connected somehow, especially by the mysterious “girl in the red coat” that ran throughout all of them. I couldn’t help but wonder what her story was, and that is what kept me so motivated to keep reading the book. (view spoiler)[ What a letdown it was to discover that there was NO mystery and NO story about the girl in the red coat. It was just a devise the author used to connect the stories, with no significant meaning behind her picture. (hide spoiler)] I really liked that these stories were connected somehow, especially by the mysterious “girl in the red coat” that ran throughout all of them. I couldn’t help but wonder what her story was, and that is what kept me so motivated to keep reading the book. (view spoiler)[ What a letdown it was to discover that there was NO mystery and NO story about the girl in the red coat. It was just a devise the author used to connect the stories, with no significant meaning behind her picture. (hide spoiler)] I had read two other novels by this author, and found them both to be very longwinded. So even though I am not usually a fan of short stories, I enjoyed these more than her full length novels. They were necessarily much more “to-the-point”, which I appreciated. While the stories were engaging, I wish they had not been quite so bleak.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Suad Shamma

    I really wasn't a fan of this one, which is sad because I usually love Rachel Joyce's story and I was looking forward for a nice warm Christmas read. Out of 7 short stories, I liked only 2 of them - and even those were not fantastically great, but just better than average. Maybe Joyce's forte does not lie in writing short stories, because a lot of them felt contrived, unrealistic, and abrupt. There were no explanation to fantastical things, there was no depth to the characters, and we didn't have I really wasn't a fan of this one, which is sad because I usually love Rachel Joyce's story and I was looking forward for a nice warm Christmas read. Out of 7 short stories, I liked only 2 of them - and even those were not fantastically great, but just better than average. Maybe Joyce's forte does not lie in writing short stories, because a lot of them felt contrived, unrealistic, and abrupt. There were no explanation to fantastical things, there was no depth to the characters, and we didn't have enough time to become invested in any of the stories. The only two I did enjoy were The Boxing Day Ball, which recounted how Maureen had first met Harold Fry and that did leave me feeling all fuzzy inside but unsatisfied. I wanted to read more. I wanted to know more about how Maureen and Harold met. I wanted to see them fall in love. It also made me feel sad, knowing how things had disintegrated with them in The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. The other story I enjoyed was the title story, A Snow Garden. A sweet tale of a divorced parent left with his two kids and trying to give them what they want and manage their expectations at the same time - given that they really aren't expecting anything! A bit of magical realism in there, but Joyce actually gives us a decent explanation to go with it which leaves the reader satisfied. The rest of the stories I would easily just skip.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Julie Morris

    I have to start this review with a humiliating admission - I have not read any of Rachel Joyce's other work. I know this is awful. I have a copy of The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry sat in my TBR pile and for some reason I just have not got round to reading it yet. I intend to rectify this very soon, having read A Snow Garden & Other Stories. This is a small book containing seven short stories which revolve around peripheral characters that were cut from her other works, but whom she has been I have to start this review with a humiliating admission - I have not read any of Rachel Joyce's other work. I know this is awful. I have a copy of The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry sat in my TBR pile and for some reason I just have not got round to reading it yet. I intend to rectify this very soon, having read A Snow Garden & Other Stories. This is a small book containing seven short stories which revolve around peripheral characters that were cut from her other works, but whom she has been unable to let go of completely. She describes them as 'making a nuisance of themselves' so she decided to try and quieten them by giving them short stories of their own. I love that idea - the thought  that these characters have a life of their own and won't settle until their story has been told. In the foreword to this book, Joyce says, 'We are at the centre of our own stories. And sometimes it is hard to believe that we are not at the centre of other people's. But I love the fact that you can brush past a person with your own story, your own life, so big in your mind and at the same time be a simple passer-by in someone else's. A walk-on part.' This is the theme that binds these stories together - they intersect almost imperceptibly, but the link is there, cemented by one recurring image throughout the book, so the book feels whole and not discordant despite the seven divergent story lines. Joyce's writing is very clever, she brings the various protagonists fully to life skilfully in the brief span provided by the short story form, and she manages to give us a very clear insight into their experiences and characters through a snapshot of a single moment in their lives. The stories are poignant and bittersweet, with an indefinable air of magic and melancholy about them, whilst at the same time as being totally real and relatable, and very, very moving. I was left affected by each story for a long while afterwards. 'A Faraway Smell of Lemon' and 'A Snow Garden' were my particular favourites and resonated deeply with me for personal reasons, and it is testimony to Joyce's expertise that her writing has managed to connect with her reader in this way in such a short space of time. I particularly love her use of language, and the way she manages to communicate a very clear image with the use of only a few words. This is a complete contrast to some of the unnecessary verbiage and over-wrought imagery I have seen in a good deal of literary fiction recently, where I sometimes feel figurative language is used for the sake of cleverness rather than clarity. I especially loved her description of '...birds sat pegged on the black branches of the trees.'- can't you just precisely imagine the scene. Each of the stories is set in the period between early December and New Year's Eve and it is the perfect winter book. However, I would not let this put you off picking it up now - it would be a great read at any time. I devoured it in one afternoon, curled in a cosy armchair, but it is one of those books that you continue to think about long after you have closed the final page. I loved this book and would highly recommend it. I look forward to reading Joyce's other books that I have so sorely and misguidedly neglected until now.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Indah

    A great read, especially at Christmas time!! I do hope to read more of Rachel Joyce's work! A great read, especially at Christmas time!! I do hope to read more of Rachel Joyce's work!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    From BBC Radio 4 - Book at Bedtime: Rachel Joyce's new collection "A Snow Garden and Other Stories" glides through the festive season with interlinked stories which delight and surprise. From an unexpected birth at an airport full of stranded travellers, a famous son wanting to escape the madness for a normal family dinner, to a divorced father's wish to give his two little boys the one thing they really want, a white Christmas. Five stories as funny, joyous, poignant and memorable as Christmas s From BBC Radio 4 - Book at Bedtime: Rachel Joyce's new collection "A Snow Garden and Other Stories" glides through the festive season with interlinked stories which delight and surprise. From an unexpected birth at an airport full of stranded travellers, a famous son wanting to escape the madness for a normal family dinner, to a divorced father's wish to give his two little boys the one thing they really want, a white Christmas. Five stories as funny, joyous, poignant and memorable as Christmas should be. Rachel Joyce is the author of the Sunday Times and international bestsellers The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Perfect and The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and has been translated into 34 languages. She is the award-winning writer of over 30 original afternoon plays and classic adaptations for BBC Radio 4. Read by ..... Rachel Joyce Produced & Directed by ..... Gemma McMullan. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06s8bsg

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ali

    With this collection of stories Rachel Joyce has proved herself a more than competent short story writer – an art I think sometimes under-appreciated these days. I do think that the stories Rachel Joyce writes in her novels are explored in greater depth and with greater subtlety than these stories perhaps allow – however they are all surprisingly touching and rather lovely and make for bittersweet Christmas reading. In her Foreword, Rachel Joyce explains her own feeling about short stories – a f With this collection of stories Rachel Joyce has proved herself a more than competent short story writer – an art I think sometimes under-appreciated these days. I do think that the stories Rachel Joyce writes in her novels are explored in greater depth and with greater subtlety than these stories perhaps allow – however they are all surprisingly touching and rather lovely and make for bittersweet Christmas reading. In her Foreword, Rachel Joyce explains her own feeling about short stories – a feeling which is my own, this the very reason why I love short stories – and still have far too many collections waiting to be read. Full review https://heavenali.wordpress.com/2015/...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty

    It surprised me that Rachel Joyce's The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, which I read almost in its entirety on a flight over to the US in September, was so good. I was therefore quite keen to read more of her work, and plumped for this seasonal collection of short stories as my next choice. Each and every one is thoughtful, and whilst some are better and linger in the mind far longer than others, there is always an element of surprise to them. There is something about Joyce's writing that fee It surprised me that Rachel Joyce's The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, which I read almost in its entirety on a flight over to the US in September, was so good. I was therefore quite keen to read more of her work, and plumped for this seasonal collection of short stories as my next choice. Each and every one is thoughtful, and whilst some are better and linger in the mind far longer than others, there is always an element of surprise to them. There is something about Joyce's writing that feels comforting, and she has a real knack for creating realistic, emotive characters.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Karina

    A Snow Garden would’ve been more meaningful if the characters could be more emotionally developed so we could connect with each of them more and felt their depth. 2.9 stars, complete review is up on my blog.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    This is a collection of short stories from the author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. The stories are linked with small references to each other and all each day in the Christmas week (though some are clearly different years). A Faraway Smell of Lemon: Binny is doing some last minute Christmas shopping and is trying to cope with the fact her husband has just left her. It's such a simple story with a limited plot but it shares a wealth of emotion and gives us a fantastic character. The This is a collection of short stories from the author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. The stories are linked with small references to each other and all each day in the Christmas week (though some are clearly different years). A Faraway Smell of Lemon: Binny is doing some last minute Christmas shopping and is trying to cope with the fact her husband has just left her. It's such a simple story with a limited plot but it shares a wealth of emotion and gives us a fantastic character. The Marriage Manual: On Christmas Eve two parents are building their son's Christmas present in the conservatory. Next thing they know they are deconstructing their marriage. I liked this story mainly due to the great metaphor of the crack in the conservatory. Christmas at the Airport: There's a technical problem at the airport and everything is stranded and a baby is born. It's a modern version of the Christmas story with an added dose of Joyce cosiness. The Boxing Day Ball: Maureen goes to a ball and meets her future husband. This is sort of a prequel story to Harold Fry which added a little background to the novel. A Snow Garden: A divorced father has his two sons to stay for the Christmas holidays but doesn't know how to entertain them. He keeps promising snow but how can he ever make that promise come good? (It's obvious from the title he does and the way he does is fantastic!) I'll Be Home for Christmas: A young popstar returns to his family home for Christmas but struggles to be normal. It's Joyce's take on the idea of celebrity and I'm totally convinced it worked. Trees: A two-fold story. First it's about an elderly father asking his young son to plant some trees. Then it becomes clear this is very closely related to the first story of the collection and we get some closure for Binny. A decent story in itself and very clever to interconnect the stories. I don't think I've read a short story collection quite like this. For a start it's very Joyce-ian and if you've ever read one of her books you'll know what I mean- it's simply written but so powerful at the same time. Whilst all the stories work really well individually they are even better as a collection, with the way they weave together.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I like Rachel Joyce's books, but I've only ever listened to them as audiobooks. As for "A Snow Garden", I'm sure it's not the book, nor the beautiful writing... It must be just me: I don't seem to enjoy short stories as I used to. I kept hoping I the next one would be better, but I never found it so. Also, it took me ages to read 75% because of a Christmas and New Year house full of guests, so I just couldn't sit down and read whenever I wanted. I guess I'd have enjoyed the audiobook better, may I like Rachel Joyce's books, but I've only ever listened to them as audiobooks. As for "A Snow Garden", I'm sure it's not the book, nor the beautiful writing... It must be just me: I don't seem to enjoy short stories as I used to. I kept hoping I the next one would be better, but I never found it so. Also, it took me ages to read 75% because of a Christmas and New Year house full of guests, so I just couldn't sit down and read whenever I wanted. I guess I'd have enjoyed the audiobook better, maybe...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Furniss

    I listened to these stories via Radio 4 Book at Bedtime. This book contains seven interlinked Christmas themed stories. I was interested to see how the author wrote in short bursts as her other novels have all been quite large but I enjoyed her writing and it was nice listening to these festive tales daily leading up to and just over Christmas. The stories never blew me away but kept me engaged. I would like to read more short stories by this author.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    I gave 3 stars cos I'm not a lover of short stories, I always want more, especially with a couple of these stories. I wanted to know what was going to happen in the future and how did everything turn out, but they were short stories and I did enjoy them. I liked the way the stories were connected together. I gave 3 stars cos I'm not a lover of short stories, I always want more, especially with a couple of these stories. I wanted to know what was going to happen in the future and how did everything turn out, but they were short stories and I did enjoy them. I liked the way the stories were connected together.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Elke

    I liked it, but not as much as I hoped. It didn't really have the ultimate Christmas feeling. The first 2 stories where even a bit sad. I liked how all the stories where mixed together. Some stories where a complete story and some felt like they missed something. They weren't as wrapped up. Overall I liked it, but not enough for four stars. I liked it, but not as much as I hoped. It didn't really have the ultimate Christmas feeling. The first 2 stories where even a bit sad. I liked how all the stories where mixed together. Some stories where a complete story and some felt like they missed something. They weren't as wrapped up. Overall I liked it, but not enough for four stars.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Karen Mace

    This was an enjoyable little collection of short stories that were all linked although some stories were more enjoyable than others!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Beth Knight

    Nice stories, especially during the holidays. The cover is gorgeous, too!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    Story One ~ A Faraway Smell Of Lemon. Binny cannot deal with Christmas. Her boyfriend has left her for another woman and she has not got the heart to do Christmas. That is until she has a chance encounter with a woman who works in a cleaning shop. Will the woman's words of wisdom shake Binny and help her give her children the Christmas they want? Story Two ~ The Marriage Manual. Alan and Alice are building a bike together for their son Will. It does not go well. There are no instructions and the Story One ~ A Faraway Smell Of Lemon. Binny cannot deal with Christmas. Her boyfriend has left her for another woman and she has not got the heart to do Christmas. That is until she has a chance encounter with a woman who works in a cleaning shop. Will the woman's words of wisdom shake Binny and help her give her children the Christmas they want? Story Two ~ The Marriage Manual. Alan and Alice are building a bike together for their son Will. It does not go well. There are no instructions and the atmosphere gets heated as many things are said. The cracks begin to show, in the house and the marriage. Is this the beginning of the end? Story Three ~ The Airport. A busy airport at Christmas, with cancellations and a heavily pregnant woman whose waters suddenly break....picture the scene! Story Four ~ The Boxing Day Ball. Maureen goes to the village ball with a group of girls that she passes every day on her way to college. It's not her usual scene, she's usually at home with her parents, in a quiet, staid house, where everything runs like clockwork and nothing unexpected ever happens. At the ball she meets the boy and after that her life is changed forever. Story Five ~ A Snow Garden. Ah, Harry, I really felt for Harry, a divorced dad with mental health issues,who only sees his two boys occasionally. Well this Christmas he has the boys for a whole seven days while their mum goes on holiday. What will he do with Connor age 15 and Owen age 11? Harry's flat is not a lived in a space, more just like a place to sleep and eat, no warmth about it, not a home at all. So, Harry sets out to transform his home and his relationship with his sons. But of all the things he promises them is snow. And we all know that it never snows at Christmas. Will the boys be disappointed and will it be just another failure in a long list of failures that have occurred between Harry and the boys. Such a poignant read. Story Six ~ I'll be home for Christmas. Tim is the most famous pop star in the world. He is now known as X but as he returns to his childhood home have things changed that much or does he still just want a boiled egg for breakfast? Story Seven ~ Trees. We meet Oliver, Binny's estranged boyfriend. His life is a mess and he does not know how to get it back on track. On Christmas Eve his dad asks Oliver to buy him twenty trees and they then drive around the town planting the trees in random places. This story ties up lots of loose ends and completes the book. I just loved this book and all the stories. Rachel Joyce writes in a quiet,simplistic way that is quite simply genius. She takes ordinary situations and makes an intriguing story out of it. Brilliant. Highly recommended. Quotes. Binny had made a habit of embracing chaos. pg 20 The young woman is right. Some things we can only have briefly. So why, then, do we behave as if everything we have connected with, everything we have blessed with our loving, should be ours for keeps? pg 42 His father had lifted the nets and parked himself in full view like a human Christmas tree, only a brown-pullovery one and without any lights. pg 219

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gaby Meares

    A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in. Greek proverb I can prescribe A Snow Garden as the perfect antidote to the general feeling of despair that pervades our world at present. Here are six stories (and a Forward not to be skipped) that gently draw the reader into lives that are messy and complicated and funny and sad. The characters we meet discover sometimes extraordinary and sometimes ordinary facts that have previously eluded them. In The A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in. Greek proverb I can prescribe A Snow Garden as the perfect antidote to the general feeling of despair that pervades our world at present. Here are six stories (and a Forward not to be skipped) that gently draw the reader into lives that are messy and complicated and funny and sad. The characters we meet discover sometimes extraordinary and sometimes ordinary facts that have previously eluded them. In The Marriage Manual Will suddenly realises 'his parents had put him together with the chaos of their loving. They had done their best and they had made mistakes, yes, and most of the time it was no more than a botch-job, and now those mistakes were a part of who he was. But he had been loved, he was loved, and he too could love.' In The Boxing Day Ball Maureen thought 'People would find one another, and sometimes it would last moments and sometimes it would last years. You could spend your life with a person and not understand them and then you could meet a boy across a dance floor and feel you knew him like a part of yourself.' I loved these stories that are written with such heart; they celebrate the essential goodness of humanity.

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