A Quality Street Christmas

Written by Penny Thorpe
Review by Jasmina Svenne

Autumn 1938, and unease about a possible war is spreading among the workers of Mackintosh’s chocolate factory in Halifax, Yorkshire, especially as some of them have been assembling gas masks instead of carrying out their usual tasks. But personal issues also intervene as Reenie suffers a setback at work after her over-enthusiasm lands her in trouble again; Mary is trying to cope with bringing up two stepchildren as well as working part-time; and Diana fears that the secrets of her past might be exposed when her stepbrother Tommo is released from prison. But it’s unassuming new girl Ada, who finds the noise and bustle of the factory overwhelming, who inadvertently unleashes a chain of events that spread far beyond what she can imagine.

My expectations are never very high when I review sagas, but I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. Although this is the fourth book in a series about the girls of the Quality Street production line, I had no difficulty in distinguishing who was who. Just enough of the back-story is revealed in a naturalistic way to intrigue the new reader and remind existing fans of previous events. The characters are well developed, with their own individual personalities. Even the antagonists are complicated figures and, in the case of Tommo and Ada’s manipulative friend Caroline, have glimmers of redeeming features.

On the whole, the plot is well-handled, though Mary’s storyline gets a little lost amid the plethora of other stories unfolding during the course of the book. If I have a criticism, it’s that the title doesn’t necessarily reflect the contents of the novel, with Christmas being little more than an afterthought in the last chapters.

In short, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it even to readers who don’t think they like sagas.