The Christmas Party by Carole Matthews

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When I heard that Carole Matthews had a new Christmas book out called The Christmas Party, I couldn’t wait to read it as I loved her book Calling Mrs Christmas in 2013.

The story follows the key characters who are part of a huge global corporate company at their work Christmas party. Work hard and play hard is the theme in this story and the Christmas party is the pinnacle of the year where all staff get to enjoy themselves, drink, eat and be merry.

Overall I was greatly disappointed with this book. I couldn’t warm to the characters, it wasn’t very festive and the story was lacking. I thought there would be more scandal, drama, intrigue and festivities as it was a Christmas themed story. It could have been a great story with drama and comedy as the office Christmas party was a brilliant theme to write about. We all have stories to tell from the Christmas party however wild or timid.

When this story starts we get the impression that we are following Louise and the story of her first Christmas party at the company as it is written in first person. But other main characters make up more of the story and for me were more central in it. Louise seemed like a nice person, keen to make a good impression in her new job and even though a single mother with debts she is a determined young woman. But for me I couldn’t warm to her as her story didn’t have much excitement to it and she seemed very tense through the whole story.

In contrast to this are Tyler and Kirsten. They are the stereotypical corporate couple where Tyler works a lot, has lots of affairs, buys expensive gifts for his wife to make up for things and Kirsten is a kept woman. We are allowed to see the real truth of their relationship and how vulnerable they were as people. Tyler is ambitious and represents the male dominated corporate world in this story where heavy drinking, affairs are deemed ok. But underneath I got the impression that he does love his wife and did want to change – he just needed to get over his ambition and stop following the crowd.

To further highlight the corporate world is Lance, the company head and a chronic alcoholic. He is a stereotype of those ‘old school boys’ corporate men where the right words and influence make a difference. Underneath Lance is a pathetic old man and it is sad as life is not all about work.

Kirsten and Melissa are similar in that they chose to be house wives and follow their husbands around the world. Neither are strong woman, are clearly unhappy, have lots of regrets and it frustrated me that no compromise was made for them to have a life too. They gave everything up and the men supported them. They highlight a male dominated working world where highly ambitious men rise up the career ladder and women just support them in their career. There are no women on the board in the company and any women we do meet are either assistants, drunk man eaters or unhappy wives. I know this is a stereotypical view of a corporate company but it was a little annoying and again I just couldn’t like or connect to the characters. They were a little pitiful for me and I would have loved to have seen them be a little stronger and maybe more involved in the social side of things such as working with charities or having little home business interests instead of being in their husband’s shadows.

The light relief in the story is a bit of comedy at the party at Tyler’s expense but again it was a bit over the top and lacklustre. Everything was thrown at the party – amazing decoration, a rubbish magician, a fire and drunk people and for me a lot of good stories and comedy could have been woven into this story but weren’t. I know some corporate parties can be hedonistic affairs but this one was verging on the ridiculous and is a bit unbelievable.

The redeeming part of this story was the warm touching moments such as when Louise was with her daughter Mia and parents and Josh was being such a nice guy. I would have liked to have seen more of Louise and Josh as an individual story but with Tyler, Lance and their wives thrown in there was too much happening and it didn’t work for me. Also I wasn’t sure who was the main character and who I should really care about in the story.

This book has underlying themes of what defines happiness for people, but for me it didn’t have the warm fuzzy festive atmosphere or feelings that Calling Mrs Christmas did. Carole Matthews is a brilliant writer and I love the other books I have read by her but I tried to like this one and just couldn’t connect with it as I have with other stories I have read by Carole.

Overall a disappointing read for me but it will not stop me reading Carole’s future books as she is still one of the best authors for girly reads in my opinion.

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