The Gift (by Danielle Steel)

Given the number of books I read, it's surprising that I'd never read anything by Danielle Steel, until three months ago. I found several of her novels in a thrift store, going very cheaply, so decided I would try some of them.

I wasn't very impressed with 'Miracle', the first one I read. But decided today that I would try another, and picked up 'The Gift'. I thought I'd read the first couple of chapters, and then get on with a few other things.

Two hours later, I had finished the entire book. It's not particularly long, and I found myself surprisingly gripped by the story, which is set in the USA in the 1950s.

I was surprised that I enjoyed it so much, because the opening chapter wasn't very hopeful. It was full of description and back story, with lots of information about the first family featured in the book. They sounded too good to be true, and I would much rather have seen them doing things, or chatting, than simply to have read about them.

Then a tragedy strikes the family, tearing them apart. And before we learn what happens over the following months, the scene moves to a very different family in another part of the USA. The father is domineering, the mother rather a doormat.

This second family have three teenage children, and the middle one, Maribeth, is about to go out to a dance as we meet them. Her father insists she change her revealing dress into something prudish, and she goes out with a most unappealing boy from her school. I had a much better impression of this family, since we see them in action rather than merely reading about them.

Maribeth does something she shouldn't, and eventually ends up getting to know some members of the first family - the ones who are trying to recover from a tragedy. She becomes the catalyst for some healing, and grows up in many ways, eventually making some very difficult decisions herself.

I found myself surprisingly moved despite myself, and hoping that Maribeth would stay strong and do the right thing. I don't know that I would recommend it highly - this is pulp women's fiction, after all, without a great deal of depth. But I certainly enjoyed it more than the other one I read by Danielle Steel. If you have a few hours to spare, or are on holiday and want something reasonably undemanding, but not as fluffy as some popular novels, then this isn't a bad read at all.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 4th March 2009

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