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Friends of Bookends reviews ALWAYS, IN DECEMBER

A short while into Always, In December, I wrote down the word ‘nice.’ As I did it, I could feel the ire of English teachers the length and breadth of the nation begin to rise. ‘Nice’ is not an acceptable adjective. ‘Nice’ does no justice to anything. I disagree. Sometimes, you just need to read a nice book with nice characters and a nice story. Nice, nice, nice. So I happily settled in to read, confident I would have a nice experience. However, I underestimated the expertise of author Emily Stone.

Josie lives and works in London, sharing a flat with her madcap friend Bia. Having just broken up with her cheating ex, Oliver, she is ready to spend Christmas alone. Josie has bad memories tied to Christmas as her parents died on Christmas Eve when she was just nine years old. Each year in December, Josie mails a letter to her parents and withdraws from Christmas as much as she can; despite the efforts of her much-loved grandparents. Then Josie meets Max and her life begins to change. The time Josie and Max actually spend together is negligible, but it has a profound effect.

While Always, In December is primarily about the relationship between Josie and Max, Emily Stone fills even minor characters with life. Josie’s grandparents illustrate family relationships perfectly and Josie’s friends are equally well-written. Even the odious Oliver is brought to life through Stone’s descriptions.

So far, so…nice. You could easily see this book being a feel-good movie of the Richard Curtis genre; but then Emily Stone delivers the gut punch. It was so unexpected that I actually flinched and therefore decided that ‘nice’ was definitely not the adjective to describe this book. On behalf of English teachers everywhere, here are some better ones: Surprising, touching, clever…A must-read.

Angela, Friends of Bookends


If you’re thinking why the heck are we hearing about a Christmas book in the middle of summer,  just hang on. Christmas is not just for Christmas, you know! And whilst Christmas does feature it’s not the only season that thirty something Josie and her fragile heart navigates. In fact this is almost the perfect holiday read whether you are ‘staycating’ or perusing the green lists for your destination. With action in London, New York and Edinburgh the places are as varied as the seasons in this heartbreaking debut novel from Emily Stone.

It’s a poignant tale that explores family, friendship, dealing with grief and the capricious nature of amour and how the same heart deals with the two. And you will almost certainly need the tissues.

I was reminded of the film Last Christmas for the mood created. Ooops, we’re back to Christmas again! It won’t be the only film you’re reminded of either in this unashamedly romantic story. I wouldn’t be surprised if this makes its way to the big screen one day. Lovers of romantic, tearjerker fiction will absorb this intravenously.

Yes, there’s plenty of heartbreak but ultimately the book is about Love – Actually.

Gill, Friends of Bookends