Ever since I participated on the Tandem Collective readalong for the Hidden Beach, I knew I would be reading more books by Karen Swan. This is my third book so far, and I am still eager to read more from her. Her writing is so captivating! So when the team at Tandem Collective , together with the team at Pan Macmillan asked me to participate to the readalong for Together By Christmas, I immediately said yes!
Together By Christmas is set in Amsterdam. When Lee first came here, she had a newborn baby and a secret. Five years later, Jasper is a big boy, and Lee’s photography career is a big success. They are getting ready to celebrate Christmas with their close friends, but something unexpected happens.
Lee finds a book in her bicycle basket. And inside the book – a cry for help. Who left it there for her, and why? Lee feels the need to help and tracks down the author of the book, Sam. What she doesn’t expect though, is an instant connection with him, and a possible future. Something she has actively been running away from.
And when everything appears to be going in the right direction, Lee’s old secret comes back to haunt her. And right in time for Christmas. Suddenly, her whole life she built in Amsterdam is on the verge of collapsing. Will Christmas be able to make it all better?
Together By Christmas is not your typical Christmas story. The Hidden Beach and the Greek Escape are both set in summer, so this is the first Christmas book I read by Karen Swan. And it was exactly what I hoped it would be. The writing was beautiful, and the plot twists kept coming. It kept me on the edge until the very end.
Lee is a very complicated character and it took me a while to warm up to her. I could immediately feel the consequences of her trauma, and could understand her fear of getting attached to people. Her passion for photography is explained so well, and her love towards her son is so strong and beautiful to witness.
“As a pack race, humans have to see in order to believe and that includes photographers with both a power and a responsibility to use their craft wisely. Photographs have the power to change the world – they can spark a protest, a riot, a revolution. It is the truth in photography that keeps us all connected, keeps us accountable -“
I love that the book is set in Amsterdam, during winter. I have been to Amsterdam and the Netherlands many times, but never during winter, so this was a wonderful experience for me. The descriptions are so vivid and I felt I was there. It was wonderful to find out about Sinterklaas, as well as The Elfstedentocht – the famous ice-skating race. I also enjoyed the Stroopwafels and smiled every time they were mentioned in the book.
I loved Jasper so much! He was my favourite character in the book! For his age, he behaved so maturely and was able to emotionally understand and support his mum, which really helped her during her struggles. His excitement was so contagious! Whenever he would get excited over little things, it would make me melt.
“If we’re going to make meaningful change in our society, then we can’t keep on turning the other cheek.”
Even though I have mixed opinions about certain scenes and actions, I really enjoyed this book. And considering that this is a book about second chances, I will let this slip. It’s the perfect book to set you into a Christmas mood. Perhaps because it’s moderately Christmassy, so it won’t be too much too soon. It had beautiful Christmas scenes, a wonderful mother-son relationship, trauma, mystery and a very heartwarming romance as well. I definitely recommend it.