Christmas at Tiffany’s, by Karen Swan
With its New York winter wonderland front cover, and a title clearly inspired by Audrey Hepburn’s most famous film, Christmas at Tiffany’s is undoubtedly a book written for a female audience. Truthfully, I have always made a point of avoiding anything I think of as falling into the “chick lit” genre, but decided to break from tradition and try something different for the festive season.
In Christmas at Tiffany’s, Cassie Fraser suddenly leaves behind the only life she has known as an adult. Having married at twenty and spent the past decade with her husband in rural Scotland, she discovers his philandering betrayal. Shocked and heart-broken, she struggles to find her own identity, in an attempt to start building a new life. Cassie spends four months staying with each of her best friends in turn; Kelly in New York, Anouk in Paris, and Suzy in London. Leaving the quiet Scottish moors behind, Cassie is suddenly thrown into a hectic, materialistic, city-living world, with little idea of how to relate to it, or how to move on.
This book will certainly appeal to anyone who is a hopeless romantic. However, there is more to it than I was initially willing to give it credit for, based on its rather sappy prologue. Once Cassie arrives in New York, the meat of the story begins. There were times during my read, when I felt somewhat exasperated by Cassie’s personal turmoil, but what I loved the whole way through was her exploration of three of my favourite cities. Having thought I knew them all fairly well, I learned a little something new about each one. Even Cassie herself grew on me throughout the book. I found her irritatingly weak and pathetic to start with, but she becomes more gutsy as the book develops, and I was surprised to find myself actually rather liking her by the end.
Karen Swan’s style of writing is highly descriptive and enjoyable. The only real issue I have with it is that on quite a few occasions, something is clearly implied, and then in the next sentence, it gets explicitly explained. This makes me feel that her readers are not given enough credit for having an ability to understand or interpret a comprehensible message. No reading between the lines is necessary in this book. However, this does offer the opportunity to simply sit back and enjoy becoming immersed in the story. I found myself able to just appreciate the writing rather than have to think too deeply, and I did get drawn into Cassie’s world without any difficulty. Yes, it is a rather girly story all about love, and yes, it is ultimately fairly predictable, but the greatness of this book lies in its details, and the only way to discover these secrets is to read it. I’m glad I did.
So am I saying here that one should never judge a book by its cover? Well no, as the eye-catching, sparkly, wintry front of this book is a realistic indication of its contents. What I am suggesting, though, is that a cover and title clearly designed to appeal to women, does not mean that the content is necessarily superficial nonsense. It is true to say that this is certainly a romance novel, and it is saturated with clichés and grand gestures, but at its heart is a touching story of a floundering woman simply trying to find her true self and her place in the world. This is a notion that I can certainly relate to, as I expect many others can too. (Plus, it offers that little ray of glimmering hope to cynics like me that good old-fashioned romance might just exist after all.)