I’ve just finished Karen Swan’s novel Christmas at Tiffany’s, and I have to be frank…I LOVED IT! Before I get into the nitty gritty, though, I wrote a few status updates on Goodreads as I read this rather long, almost 600-page story, so I’d like to transcribe them again here and use them as a basis for my review.
~ On arrive à Paris! Good riddance to Luke, who I don’t trust for some reason. Also, I’m slightly frustrated with Cassie for allowing her friends (first Kelly, and now Anouk) to completely remake her when she arrives in each country. Although the changes are physical, I feel like her willingness to just let them have their way with her indicates a lack of self-confidence and inner strength at this point. ~
~ Venice was both exciting and confusing! ~
~ Onward to London, with a broken heart. What I thought would be a light and fun book has seriously surprised me! ~
What I felt while in the midst of reading this rather intricate story is just as true now. I won’t go into a summary of the plot since you can easily read that in the novel’s synopsis on Goodreads or online elsewhere, and I also don’t feel like I could fully encapsulate all that the novel is about. I admit, I picked up the book because of the title, jolly front cover and the description of a story that sounded light, airy and a bit silly, but this novel hits so much harder. It does have an overarching message within it that is conveyed through Cassie’s journey and I don’t think Cassie’s work is done at the end. But the making of a good novel, in my opinion, is that the reader can envision lives for the characters after the back cover is closed, so I will say that this novel was truly a surprise and more impressive than I expected in so many ways!
Firstly, it wasn’t very festive at all. Although the title definitely suggests that this novel will be full of Christmas cheer, there is only the briefest mention of Christmas at two points in the story. While many readers whose reviews I’ve read labelled this false advertising, I still believe that this is a perfect novel to read at Christmas. It is the quintessential Starbucks novel. I curled up with it in Starbucks, green tea (my new addiction!) beside me, every single day, and the environment coupled with the adventure and excitement described in the book put me right in the Christmas spirit. This is a warm book…although there are cold moments of heartache and grief (I’m thinking of Cassie’s devastating experiences in Paris, for example), the emphasis on friendship, love and, most importantly, inner peace truly does warm the soul.
Cassie goes on four remarkable adventures in this novel, visiting New York, Paris, Venice and London after learning that her husband of 10 years has been cheating on her (so much for not providing a brief plot summary). This sort of plot is right up my alley. I’ve visited all of the cities Cassie resides in, and Swan’s descriptions brought me right back to those much beloved places. What I liked best about Swan’s writing style and pacing is that she allowed for the reader to get a really solid understanding of Cassie’s daily life and integration into each city, but she also expertly moved forward in time to significant events without any jarring of the reader’s comfort. We get to live with Cassie for a full year, and I think that by the end, we very much feel like we have journeyed and grown with her.
My least favourite section of the novel was the first, when Cassie spent time in New York, because I felt that she lacked confidence and self-assurance. Even in her move to Paris, Cassie allows her friends to entirely dictate how she should look and act, and I felt it frustrating that a 31 year old woman wouldn’t have a bit more backbone. But, looking back, I absolutely appreciate those parts of the plot because, particularly in hindsight, they emphasized Cassie’s maturation and self-discovery. The truth is that Cassie had no idea who she was, all throughout her marriage, and so she had to start from scratch and develop her self-esteem. She eventually does, and the pride the reader has in her is made greater by the fact that we witnessed her struggle.
My favourite section of the novel was any one that involved Henry…hence why I found the Venice portion of the novel so exciting! Okay, yes, I’m a hopeless romantic, but Henry is a bit of a different hero and he is an instrumental (if not the most instrumental) part of Cassie’s journey. He creates a To Do List for her for each city she lives in, each item of which has a greater significance, and it is his presence that pushes Cassie out of her comfort zone. What I appreciated about this love story is that it emphasized that the right kind of romance will help a person grow. So many people believe that to love is to lose one’s independence, but I disagree. The right love will be full of adventure, and is a unity of two separate minds that come together to quite literally make magic. Cassie and Henry have that…it takes them awhile to work out the kinks, but they inspire each other to be better versions of themselves throughout the novel.
The sole element I found problematic was that Cassie thought Henry was engaged for much of the novel. This was not only a major complication, but also verged on dangerous territory as they began to desire each other more. Cassie is a woman who has suffered at the hands of an unfaithful husband, so I did not in any way want her to become that other woman. Luckily, she steers pretty clear of that, and I am glad that all things became clear at the end. I only wish that maybe Cassie had confronted Henry a bit sooner and emphasized how inappropriate it was for them to spend so much time together when he had a fiancée. This would’ve forced him to admit that he didn’t have one any longer, and much ambiguity could’ve been avoided. But, then I guess the suspense would’ve dissipated too.
All in all, I really enjoyed my first endeavour into Karen Swan’s catalogue and I do plan to read more of her books (and most definitely the sequel to Christmas at Tiffany’s) very soon. After reading some very average books recently, this novel seriously surprised me and ended up being so much more poignant and meaningful than your average dose of chick lit. I will miss my Starbucks dates with Christmas at Tiffany’s, and I hope my next read is just as satisfying!
❥ ❥ ❥ ❥ (out of 5)
Girl with a Green Heart