Not everything gets wrapped up in a neat little bow in Knight's (My Life on a Plate) refreshingly sharp take on domestic bliss. The reader first meets Clara Dunphy's blended London clan in 2009. A cocktail-fueled discussion of men and women, biological clocks, and the myth of the perfect marriage foreshadows the subsequent two Christmases. Women's fiction with bite.
Knight's favorite heroine (My Life on a Plate, 2001) returns, now remarried and juggling a hectic mixed family and a potential new love over the course of three consecutive holiday seasons.
It's two days before Christmas, and Clara Dunphy takes a break for a champagne cocktail during a last-minute shopping trip.Unexpectedly, she meets a handsome stranger who asks her to stay for a drink.Clara is still married, to a choreographer named Sam, and has a daughter with him and two teenaged sons with her first husband, Robert.But things with Sam have been rocky lately, and Clara can't quite imagine them growing old together.Nonetheless, she returns home to a hectic dinner involving both Sam and Robert, the children, a critical mother, a dottering mother-in-law and several friends in complicated states of single-hood and couple-hood.The brood has a lot to drink and things get awkward, though nothing much actually happens, somewhat emblematic of the novel as a whole.Fast-forward a year.Sam and Clara's marriage has indeed dissolved, and she has rekindled her relationship with the stranger from the previous Christmas, though everyone except said stranger is gathered again for another dinner at her house.Clara finally seems rightly concerned about the effect of all this on her children, which harkens back to issues from her own childhood (though she did have a consistent father figure, her mother is now on her fourth husband, which clearly haunts her).On the third Christmas featured, Clara takes the show on the road, embarking on a family holiday to Morocco. And what of the stranger? Stay tuned. Clara loves Christmas, and it's easy to see why—as long as she can keep all the disjointed people in her life together, they will remain, in the best possible ways, a family.
Plotless, though clearly warm-hearted holiday fun.