Title – A Christmas Tail
Author – Cressida McLaughlin
Genre – Fiction
An absolutely delightful book, not just for the Christmas season, but all year round. The blurb is a tad misleading. This book was originally released as a series called “Primrose Terrace”, comprising four books set around the four seasons – spring, summer, autumn, and winter – culminating in a Christmas celebration. “A Christmas Tail” is a compilation of all the books in the series, set here as “parts”, with each having their own chapters.
Let’s have a look at the happenings on Primrose Terrace. Cat Palmer has recently relocated to Fairview from Brighton. She’s moved in with an old friend Polly, a veterinary nursing student. Polly shares an apartment with her grumpy brother Joe, an illustrator, who owns an equally grumpy ginger cat called Shed. Although Polly loves dogs, neither of the grumps wants one, leaving Cat unhappy about not being able to get herself a dog of her own. While in Brighton, Cat was working at a nursery, and had picked up a similar job in Fairview. On one such work day, while trying to help an elderly neighbor recovering from knee replacement surgery, Cat offers to babysit her miniature schnauzer puppy. Little Disco is carried along to the nursery in a handbag, which he manages to wiggle out of, much to the dismay of the nursery’s owner Alison, who promptly fires Cat for her unprofessionalism.
In a new city and out of work, Cat’s elderly neighbor Elsie reminds her of how good she is with children and animals, driving Cat to the decision of working as a professional dog walker – a way to explore the city, spend all her time with dogs, and earn along the way. Titled “Pooch Promenade”, her venture turns out to be a roaring success. Primrose Terrace has many residents who are working all day, or travel frequently, or like old Elsie who are rehabilitating, and need assistance in walking their dogs.
The beauty of the writing is that it gives the dogs center stage and they are characters in their own right. From Chalky and Disco – the miniature schnauzers, to Valentino, Coco and Dior – the Westies ( a cloud of white fur), Bertha the Rhodesian ridgeback, Chips the Collie, Huey the Border terrier, and many more canine companions, Cat’s “clients” come in all shapes and sizes. There’s character development for each of the dogs, and the humans are introduced by the dogs they belong to. Set over the period of a year, in accordance to the original series, the reader is taken through the changing seasons – a spring party to get to know the neighbors, a pooch picnic in summer, a surfing event to get the community involved, a protest against having dogs in parks or beaches, neighborhood cats terrorizing little dogs, a doggie fancy dress competition, a Christmas gathering – we get a glimpse of Cat’s life in her new home. There are side stories involving Cat’s parents, her neighbors Mark – the horror film writer, Jessica – the author, the Barker couple, Frankie and her kids, flatmates Polly and Joe, the grouch Mr. Jasper, but the author never deviates from the theme at hand. Neither is the book overly Christmassy, rather being set throughout the year, leading towards Christmas, with which it ends.
The chapters are placed in attractively titled parts like Woolies and Westies, Sunshine and Spaniels, Raincoats and Retrievers, Tinsel and Terriers, and each chapter is numbered as a doghouse with a bone-shaped pillow. The sparkly cover is absolutely gorgeous – the illustrations perfect for the Christmas season, the little paws dotting the “i’s”, and actual glitter on the front and back of the cover. There is a quiz at the end to find out your “inner dog/doggess” – answering a series of questions to find out which dog breed matches your personality. Plus a Q & A session with the author talking about, what else, but dogs – movies featuring dogs, books about dogs, her own life with dogs. The book is quite lengthy on account of it being a compilation of originally four stories, but heart-warming nevertheless – a must-read for those making new friends in a new home, and of course, dog lovers.
Rating – 5/5