Welcome to my stop for The Great Christmas Knit Of by Alexandra Brown. Please read on for my review and excerpt, and be sure to check the tour stops to see what other reviewers thought. and be sure to enter the tour-wide giveaway where you could win one of 3 Print Copies of THE GREAT CHRISTMAS KNIT-OFF
Another entrant in the holiday pile, The Great Christmas Knit Off from Alexandra Brown is a read full of heart, humor and some wonderfully detailed knitted jumpers. While I’m not a huge knitter, although I can manage basic things, this fueled my desire for a warm and wooly moment of my own.
Sybil is a wonderfully warm character, handed some tough moments but having the ability to move forward, despite them. She’s had a relationship fall apart, and she just may have been responsible for a major mistake at work. Thinking retreat is the better option, she packs her knitting, dog and a small suitcase and boards the train for the village of Tindledale, the perfect small-town escape. One of the early entries in the book is a map of the village proper, and with evocative names and place markers, the village becomes a secondary character at the outset.
While on the train, Sybil encounters several Tindledale natives, all cleverly introduced with that feeling of long acquaintance, as in many small villages. Tindledale is the iconic small village: the residents are not internet savvy, mobile service is spotty at best, and everyone is aware of, if not overtly involved in the daily lives of friends and neighbors. A warm and welcoming place, perfect for a regroup.
Brown quickly brings us to the nurturing sense of the village as Sybil, on an exploratory walk about the village meets Hettie, elderly proprietress of the Hettie’s House of Haberdashery, a shop dedicated to the art of needlework, particularly knitting. With Sybil’s obsession with knitting, the two have an instant rapport, but Hettie brings something more, a purpose and project for Sybil. Throughout the story, the characters offer friendship, advice and even some manipulations to bring a new outlook to Sybil, giving her a respite from the troubles she ran from.
Paced with care, the story builds slowly with tremendous care, you can see the village, understand the people and even feel as if the jumpers and other knitted items are completing before your eyes. There is little not to like in this book, with a gradual romance starting to build for Sybil, her finding her footing in something she is never unsure about (her knitting) starts to build her confidence in other aspects of her life.
Gradual development of characters giving them depth and breadth, settings that ring out to be visited and friendships that show every reader the potential of openness, honesty and true caring made this a read in one sitting book, and I’m now adding others by this author to my shelf.
Title: The Great Christmas Knit-Off
Author: Alexandra Brown
Published by: William Morrow Paperbacks
Published on: 13 October, 2015
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
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Heartbroken after being jilted at the altar, Sybil has been saved from despair by her knitting obsession and now her home is filled to bursting with tea cosies, bobble hats, and jumpers. But, after discovering that she may have perpetrated the cock-up of the century at work, Sybil decides to make a hasty exit and, just weeks before Christmas, runs away to the picturesque village of Tindledale.
There, Sybil discovers Hettie’s House of Haberdashery, an emporium dedicated to the world of knitting and needle craft. But Hettie, the outspoken octogenarian owner, is struggling and now the shop is due for closure. And when Hettie decides that Sybil’s wonderfully wacky Christmas jumpers are just the thing to add a bit of excitement to her window display, something miraculous starts to happen…
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Hettie Honey picked up a lovely lavender lace weight that a customer had abandoned by the till after pondering for what seemed like an eternity that, actually, it wasn’t the right shade of lavender after all. She then walked across the shop floor of her House of Haberdashery to repatriate the ball into its rightful place—a wooden, floor-to-ceiling cabinet comprising twenty-four cubbyholes inset over three shelves crammed with every color, ply and type of yarn imaginable. Hettie smiled wryly, remembering the program she had listened to on the radio not so long ago. Knitting! It was all the rage nowadays and she hoped it would finally catch on in Tindledale, her beloved picture-postcard village and Hettie’s home for the eighty-three years of her life to date. She ran the timber-framed, double-fronted shop adjacent to the wisteria-clad roundel of the oast house her father had built before she was even born.
Hettie lifted the tray on which sat the last remnants of her afternoon tea; a cheese sandwich minus the crusts because her teeth weren’t as strong as they used to be plus a pot of tea and a pink iced finger that had only cost ten pence on account of being past its best. Kitty, in the tearoom up on the High Street, had tried to give her the bun for free, but Hettie hated taking charity, especially when she felt there were other people in far more need. Hettie moved to the back of the shop, swept the curtain aside and went through to the little kitchenette area. Years ago this had been her mother’s sewing room, and the wooden Singer machine with its rickety foot pedal still lived there, with a multitude of multicolored bobbins all piled up high on the shelf behind it.
After placing the tray on the draining board next to the age-veined Belfast sink and carefully wrapping the crusts in plastic to dunk into her warming homemade soup the following afternoon, Hettie picked up the picture frame on the mantelpiece above the fi re and ran a finger over the faded black-and-white autographed photo. She allowed herself an enormous sigh. She wasn’t usually one for self-pity or hand-wringing, but another one of the letters had come this morning, with FINAL DEMAND stamped across the top in ugly red type. Business had been so slow these past couple of years, and now, with her dwindling savings and pittance of a pension, she had come to realize that it was going to take a darn miracle this Christmas for Hettie’s House of Haberdashery to remain afloat come the new year.
There had been talk of retirement; of closing down the House of Haberdashery; of putting her feet up and going “into a home.” Hettie’s nephew, her brother Harold’s son and last of the Honey family line, was all for it. On one of his rare visits, on the pretext of seeing how she was, he’d told Hettie he was concerned about her living on her own, that she needed the rest and that “it’s not like you’ve got that many customers these days, is it?” He said he’d make sure she had her own bedroom or at the very least, a twin sharer. “And besides, it might be nice for her to have the company of people her own age.” He’d put forward a strong case and had already contacted the council to inquire about a suitable place. But Hettie wasn’t losing her marbles and she knew that what he was really after was to bulldoze her beloved home—the oast house surrounded by a meadow of pretty wild flowers, and the place where she grew up. There’s her cozy bedroom suite, set upstairs in the roundel with its magnificent view of the valley, the lovely farmhouse kitchen with the walk-in pantry, the sunroom, the snug—it’s got the lot, and that’s on top of all her memories wrapped within its circular walls. Not to mention her beloved little shop, right next door, crammed full of all her favorite knitting and needlecraft goodies.
Then he’d be able to get his hands on the land for one of his building projects. He’d told her all about the one with ample parking and plastic windows that his company had created in the town where he lived, over fifty miles away. Seventeen months it had taken, he’d said, to fight all the objections from the local residents’ association, and he had puffed on about it for the entire hour of that tedious visit. But Hettie isn’t ready to be written off; to be carted away to an old people’s home like a nag to a glue factory, not when there is plenty of life still left in her sprightly body. Besides, “going into a home” would mean leaving Tindledale behind, and Hettie knows more than anything that this is where her heart belongs. It always has, even when she’d had the chance of a different life, far, far away.
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