A Winter Beneath the Stars by Jo Thomas – review

Published by Headline

Publication date – 13 December 2018

Source – review copy

Halley has been running from her problems for years.

On a courier trip to Tallfors, deep in Swedish Lapland, everything is going to plan. Halley has her bag, with two precious wedding rings inside for delivery… until she doesn’t.

The only way to save the wedding is to team up with mysterious reindeer herder Bjorn, the one person who can lead her across the snowy tundra to be reunited with her bag.

On a journey of a lifetime beneath the stars, with only the reindeer and a bad-tempered stranger for company beside the fire, Halley realises that she will need to confront her past heartaches in order to let the warmth of love in once more…

Halley has been employed as a travel courier for the last two years, travelling to various countries, hand delivering items. This time she is off to Sweden, to deliver wedding rings. But when there is a mix up with her bag, Halley has to get them back. The only way to do so it would seem is to travel across the frozen countryside with a stranger and a pack of dogs. Oh and a herd of reindeer. That time will allow Halley to confront her past, and maybe find a new future.

I loved the setting of the novel. The fact that my surroundings of a warm house juxtaposed nicely with the scenes depicting the snowy tundra of the Arctic may have helped that. It was lovely to read about the sledging across the snow, and to see how Halley’s view on nature and the animals she relied on changed as the story progressed.

Jo Thomas really managed to set the scene, making the frozen wilds of Sweden appealing even to this warm-blooded seeker of the sun. I could easily imagine strapping on some snow shoes and jumping on a sled, setting off on a hunt for the Northern Lights.

There are a whole host of great characters that fill the pages of this book. Halley has her issues, reasons for running from her life, which become clearer as the story progresses. Her family,  who we get a glimpse of through Halley’s reflections, seem a close-knit and welcoming bunch. Bjorn is funny and taciturn in turn, gentle with his animals but hard on himself. It was lovely to watch the story unfold and lead towards an inevitable, but welcome outcome. Lars, the enthusiastic receptionist at the Tallfors hotel reminded me of Oaken, the sauna owner in Frozen. His exuberance and view that fate would lead love to him were endearing. Pru’s nan also lent a lovely comic bent to the story.

This is a charming tale of finding your way in the dark and working towards a new light. It is about realising you have to live rather than survive and that home can be in the most unexpected of places. A lovely, warm read, perfect for a cold winter evening.

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