The Great Christmas Knit-Off (by Alexandra Brown)

I hadn’t heard of Alexandra Brown when Amazon recommended this book to me, based on my reading preferences. The blurb made it sound interesting, and I liked the idea of a book that focused on knitting; so I put it on my wishlist, and was given it for Christmas.

The cover of ‘The Great Christmas Knit-Off’ instantly told me that it was going to be light reading, both undemanding and probably mildly humorous in places. I had a vague hope that it might be somewhat like the large number of books about baking, and I was not disappointed.

The story is told from the point of view of Sybil, a woman in her early thirties whom we meet as she’s arriving home from work. We learn from the first pages that she was jilted at the altar, and is still very hurt and angry, but hasn’t really taken a break at all. She works for social services but has always loved knitting...

Sybil decides to go and spend the weekend with her close friend Cher in a place called Tindledale. Sybil is accompanied by her dog Basil, and things start to go wrong right from the start. Her car stops working, so she decides to go by train… and the weather is getting more and more wintry.

Most of the book takes place in Tindledale, a picturesque (albeit somewhat caricatured) village where everyone knows and cares about everyone else. It’s in stark contrast to Sybil’s normal mode of living, and gradually - imperceptibly - she finds herself relaxing. Not that her long weekend is free of stress: she’s heard something on the radio that makes her pretty sure she’ll be fired from her job.

Hettie, meanwhile, is an elderly but sprightly lady who runs the Tindledale haberdashery shop. However she doesn’t get many customers, and her shop is looking very run-down. Her nephew has persuaded her to help him financially, which has put her in debt, and she has a lot of secrets in her past which weigh on her heavily.

There are a lot of characters in the book despite it being such a small village, and I found myself getting confused at times between Molly and Marigold, Cooper and Clive, Leo and Lawrence; not that it mattered unduly. There’s a little map at the front of the book showing a plan of the village, though not everyone’s names. The main characters were nicely drawn, though; I could certainly believe in Sybil and also in the somewhat klutzy (but very handsome) doctor Ben.

I wasn’t entirely sure I believed in the ability of the group of women to do as much knitting as they had to towards the end of the book. Nor was I impressed with the single small pattern offered at the end, for a Christmas pudding; the simplistic instructions clearly didn’t match the picture that went with it.

As I expected, the story was light, with mildly amusing scenes and comments here and there, and one or two very moving places as well. I don’t think I’ll be looking out for books in other series by this writer, but if, as she states in the introduction, there are going to be further Tindledale novels, I will probably acquire them as the main characters rather got under my skin.

Recommended in a low-key way for those who enjoy undemanding women’s fiction. It would be ideal reading during the run-up to Christmas, which is when I hope to re-read it in a few years' time.

Review copyright 2017 Sue's Book Reviews

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