We asked our Friends of Bookends panel what they thought of Jo Thomas’ latest winter warmer novel, A Winter Beneath the Stars. This is what they said . . .
The weather turned whilst I was reading this book and that may be why I was shivering so much…or maybe it was the wonderfully wintery location
of this atmospheric story. Either way, I would advise you to grab a blanket before you read this as Jo Thomas’ descriptions of the frozen
North will definitely give you chills (even if your heating is turned up to maximum, and maybe even if you have a rugged reindeer herder to
keep you warm!)
Halley is a courier, hand-delivering precious objects around the world. She is less than thrilled to venture to the North of Sweden to deliver
wedding rings to two brides. Halley’s hopes of a quick drop-off and even quicker return to civilisation come a cropper when her bags are
switched with an enigmatic Swedish chef. (I was going to refer to him as the ‘Swedish Heston Blumenthal,’ until I realised that Blumenthal
actually sounds like a Swedish name anyway so, maybe not.) The only way for Halley to reunite with her bag is to join sexy reindeer-herder
Bjorn (there’s a phrase I never thought I’d use) on a trek across the ice.
Thomas’ descriptions of the scenery and the wildlife will certainly make you want to visit Sami country and, readers, beware! This book will make you hungry! So grab a blanket, some snacks and saddle up Rudolph – you’re in for a fun ride.
Halley is a courier and her current job takes her to Sweden to deliver some wedding rings. When she loses her bag containing the rings she has to rely on reindeer herder Bjorn to get her back to her bag. The bag also contains her travel journal which her husband gave her and she is desperate to retrieve it.
Bjorn is adorable and every time I read his name, I got an image of Kristoff from Frozen in my head. Although he was a lot more serious than Kirstoff, he still had this endearing quality underneath his harsh exterior which came out more as he got to know Halley and her reasons for always being on the move. He helps her come to terms with her past without feeling sorry for her and in-kind she helps him find a way to combine both his passion for cooking and his passion for his family’s reindeer herd.
The setting of Sweden was so beautifully described, I almost felt like I was there on the journey with them (although much warmer thankfully). It made me add Sweden to my list of places I want to visit, although I think I’ll stick with the hotels rather than a tent in the forest.
Lars was a great side character, he provided such humour and his belief in fate, just like his grandmother said. I’m glad he got a happy ending, even if it wasn’t with Halley.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I will look forward to reading more from this author in the future.
I have read Jo Thomas’ The Oyster Catcher previously, and knew that the author obviously did methodical research for her books. This means you can fully immersed yourself in the story. This latest offering again showed a great deal of knowledge of the subject matter and the reader does learn a lot about the Sami and it’s culture.
However, it did seem after a while as though I was being lectured. The phrase ‘show don’t tell’ came to mind-there was too much telling. ‘Respect the animal’ was quoted too often,labouring the point. Both ‘reveals’ were telegraphed and Lars persistent pursuing was unconvincing, but he did add comic valve and was central to the plot. Bjorn was an enigma and it wasn’t difficult, despite their differences, to understand Halley’s growing attraction to him. United in grief and pain, the pair bonded, their layers of defence gradually being peeled away. Though the ending was never in doubt (part of the appeal of these stories is there assuring outcome) the journey the author took the reader on, was both educational and interesting.
This is the first Winter story from one of my favourite authors. It has a warm Christmassy feel and I romped through the story and found it easy to imagine I was in Swedish Lapland with Halley.
Jo Thomas’ characters are convincing, especially her strong heroine who turns her life around after the journey of a lifetime.Halley is a personal courier whose job involves taking exceptional care of packages which she delivers to the recipient. The crux of this story is that this is a job which goes badly wrong, throwing her future employment into doubt.She writes a daily diary, which she explains is for her husband to read and it is only later in the book we discover all is not as simple as this.
Her initial mistake could have cost her her job, livelihood and tipped her over the edge, but instead was cathartic and the happy ending was all the better for being eagerly anticipated.
I am sure there is further scope for the continuing adventures of Halley and her partner as they settle in to life with the reindeer, restaurant and blogging, instead of deliveries!