Let it be known that I am a sucker for Christmas. I put up the
tree, the nativity scene and all the decorations --- including
exterior lights --- right after Thanksgiving and start buying
eggnog by the quart as soon as it shows up in the grocery stores
(and then spend the entire month of January trying to work it off).
I especially love Christmas carols and all the holiday songs, and I
enjoy each and every one of those seasonal TV specials --- from the
Rankin-Bass “Rudolph” classics to Lifetime
Network’s holiday-themed romance movies. So when I was asked
to review a holiday novel, I knew it was a task right up my alley
(or right down my chimney, so to speak!). And just like a gift from
an early Santa, Lorna Landvik’s ’TIS THE SEASON!
arrived at my door.
The novel hits directly on the timely topic of celebrity and our
culture’s obsession with it. The main character is Caroline
“Caro” Dixon, a wealthy heiress whose hard-partying,
alcohol-fueled lifestyle is food for the entertainment
media’s biggest bottom-feeder tabloids. After a particularly
wild bender, she finds herself ostracized by her entire circle and
decides to finally dry out and get some help. She begins
tentatively reaching out to some people from her past with whom she
had genuine relationships --- Astrid Brevald, her Norwegian nanny
from her teenage years, and Cyril Dale, a cowboy and owner of an
Arizona dude ranch where Caro spent some time during an especially
rough patch in her childhood. Through these reconnections, the
story of these characters begins to unfold, and ’TIS THE
SEASON! explores what it means to forgive and be forgiven.
Landvik undoubtedly has an ear for the circus our
celebrity-obsessed tabloid culture has turned into, and in these
days of Paris Hilton and Brangelina, the book couldn’t be
timelier. Although I didn’t feel that the author’s use
of the epistolary novel form for this particular undertaking was
strong --- the entire story is written as a series of emails,
articles, letters, notes and recordings, which at best was
distracting and at times downright confusing --- her attention to
her characters is unfaltering, and she has a perfect ear when it
comes to mimicking the tone of the entertainment shows and
I found myself rooting for Caro to succeed in turning herself
around, which surprised me, given how little sympathy I felt
towards her in the beginning. This, I believe, is Landvik’s
great strength. As with her earlier novel, THE VIEW FROM MOUNT JOY,
she has a rare ability to connect readers with those very real
human flaws in her characters.
Ultimately, like the very best of Christmas stories, ’TIS
THE SEASON! is all about forgiveness, hope and charity; what it
means to be human and what it means to be very rich. This is the
perfect book to curl up with (eggnog optional) and an engaging (and
very seasonal) reminder to count our blessings.
Reviewed by Lourdes Orive on January 23, 2011
’tis the Season!