The Night Before Christmas

The Night Before Christmas
By Scarlett Bailey
Ebury Press – £6.99

As it says on the inside cover of The Night Before Christmas: ‘’Scarlett Bailey loves nothing more than spending a wet Sunday afternoon watching her favourite films back-to-back with large quantities of chocolate.’’

Might it be said that this is an ultimate reflection of the book itself. In other words, chick-lit at it’s finest. It’s most blatant. It’s most obvious.

In fact, perhaps a little too obvious, especially so far as the book’s plot is ultimately concerned. That said, if it was Fyodor Dostoevsky you were after, you’ve obviously come to the wrong place.

Okay, here goes: four long-time, attractive (in this particular genre of writing, everyone is always attractive) girlfriends get together for the Christmas period, as one of the friends is preparing to open a boutique hotel (whatever that means) in the middle of the Lake District. Accompanied by their respective partners, they each envisage a romantic break – replete with coy consultation, cuddles and camaraderie.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite pan out that way, and the ensuing saga takes up the remainder of the novel; which, considering it’s set over the time span of a week, certainly contains huge dollops of fun’n’frolics. Not to mention fashion. Not to mention menus (I kid thee not) for ‘Stephen’s Boy Scout’s Baked Beans,’ ‘Will’s Shovel Fried Eggs’ and ‘Cumberland Rum Butter.’ (all available at the back of the book !)

Without wanting to divulge too much, our protagonist Lydia has three lucky men to choose from – if indeed ‘lucky’ be the term – the boxes inexorably ticked throughout come under the following yawnesque headings: reliable and safe, naughty and sexy, dark and mysterious. As any fem fatale would do in preparation for picking out the best man: ‘’Once she’d raised her body temperature to acceptable levels, she found a pair of the aforementioned evil hipster jeans […], pulled on a contrasting grey and white vest combo, and finished it off with a knee-length off the shoulder sweater that was probably a bit loosely knitted to be practical, considering the Artic conditions, but which looked sexy. And Lydia decided that, right now, looking as sexy as a quite short, quite curvy, brunette girl could when standing next to a quite tall and willowy, very beautiful, semi-famous redhead was more important to her than being warm […]. She brushed out her hair, until it wended its way in long, dark ripples down her back, and smudged a little eyeliner around her chocolate-brown eyes, before applying the mascara she never usually went anywhere without.’’

The Night Before Christmas can only be described as the runner-up in the X Factor of literature; which in this instance is obviously a good thing, as there’ll always be a market for light-weight escapism.

David Marx

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