Hi, everyone. I hope you’re all well and enjoying the festive season. I’m continuing my December/holiday-themed book review today with The Sh!te Before Christmas by Serena Terry. I hope you enjoy it.
The Sh!te Before Christmas was first published in November 2022 by Harper Collins and (my copy) is 376 pages.
Tara Gallagher is a Derry mum who wants to give her family a perfect Christmas. The trouble is nobody is helping her. With her children misbehaving and her husband acting distant, a heavily pregnant Tara is finding things a bit stressful. Then, on top of all of that, her estranged mother comes to stay with her.
Tara, the main character, wants her family to love her as much as she loves them, at least that’s what I got from the book, and there appears to be a deep-rooted reason for this in the form of her mother. She has suffered from anxiety and depression in the past, and now that she and her husband, Paul, are expecting their fourth child, she’s come off her medication for the duration. She tends to jump to conclusions pretty quickly about her friends, Cat and Amanda, as well as her husband, which leads to all sorts of anxiety.
Tara’s voice is especially clear, and I couldn’t help but read it with a Northern Irish accent, and as she starts to tell you her story and you get to know her, she quickly becomes a very likeable character.
Paul, Tara’s husband, feels a little taken for granted, and he admits, at one stage, to feeling ‘drained’ by her. He doesn’t get on with Tara’s mother, which adds to the drama of the story. Paul is written as a fairly typical man, though he comes across as likeable and relatable.
The younger children, Nathan and Jax, are rather funny. The things they say reminded me of the types of things the kids in my family would say. They are inquisitive, unfiltered and very real – sometimes, even embarrassing – as young children sometimes can be.
The eldest, Gemma, got on my nerves a little. She’s rather dramatic and has a large chip on her shoulder. She appears a bit over the top at times, but I suspect that’s good writing because teens are often irritating, dramatic and over the top. I know; I’ve raised one. Gemma does have a good arc, though, and she changes a little bit by the end, which is always a good thing for a character.
Tara’s mum, ‘Pammy’, is quite a character. At first, she’s a bit standoffish with Tara and her family, and there are reasons for that, which I won’t spoil here. Pammy also has a good character arc and ends up doing a bit of changing, and although in the beginning, I didn’t like the character, she grew on me by the end.
All of the characters seem fully fleshed out. They’re all distinct but genuine and funny. In fact, the characters in this book were so realistic that, at times, it felt as if I could have been reading my Facebook timeline and seeing all the things my different family members post about themselves and their kids.
The story is told in first person and the present tense, making you feel like you’re right there beside Tara through every moment of December. It’s very conversational – you almost feel like Tara’s counsellor, listening as she tells you all her dramas. The plot, although not fast and furious, had enough drama and tension (there’s even a bit of a ‘follow that car!’ situation) to keep me intrigued and, although there were a couple of times where I felt I needed a break from reading, I found myself unable to stay away because I needed to know how it ended. I’ll say this as well, for much of the book, I was convinced I knew how it would end. Convinced. And I would say I’m reasonably good at unravelling the plot of stories early on. I was not correct in this instance – which was great. I hate it when I really do work it all out. It makes me feel I’ve wasted my time. But not here.
Since reading the book, I’ve discovered that The Sh!te Before Christmas is actually a sequel to The Secret Life of an Uncool Mum and to be honest, I would never have guessed. The characters and plot are written in a way that you don’t have to read the first book to enjoy it. I never felt I was missing any information at all.
I didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I have. It is definitely not the sort of book I would usually choose, but seeing that it was about Christmas and having a bit of a catchy title, it caught my eye. I bought it assuming it would be very chick-lit-y, but it’s not. It’s a fair bit more than I bargained for. It was funny and heartwarming in all the right places, and it certainly gave me all those Christmassy feelings I like from a festive book.
Something else that caught me off guard was that the main character mentions Covid a couple of times. It’s the first time I’ve read a book where the pandemic and lockdown are mentioned just in passing, but I suppose there’ll be more and more covid mentions as time goes by.
Anyway, If you enjoy slice-of-life-type stories, or even if you appreciate a bit of sarcasm, then this might be right up your street.
I give The Sh!te Before Christmas a fair 6 out of 10.
Have you read The Sh!te Before Christmas? What did you think?
As always, thanks for stopping by to spend some of your time with me today. It really means a lot!
Until next time,
© 2022 GLT