Having read the first novel by Glyn Timmins, the second offering of ‘Tinsel, Texts and Temptations’ had a lot to live up to – could Gary Farrow really be pushed aside for a Christmas offering? In short, yes – Farrow can sit a bit further back on the shelf while the tale of Julia Carter unfolds.
Julia is everywoman – job, family, mid-life crisis. Her relationship with husband Jim is stale, and her flirtation with colleague Andy is reaching dangerous levels. Add into this a week controlled by a mobile phone, and you begin to see why Julia is feeling just a little overwhelmed by her own life.
Julia, as a character, is very relatable – she thinks as a normal person would, no interior monologues gone wild are presented, no indulging of the author’s personal philosophies or preachings, she’s just a regular person trying to deal with everyday occurrences. Watching her life is sometimes like watching an accident in slow motion, and it gives us an appreciation of why she acts in the way she does as the novel progresses. Likewise, it also drags us into the story emotionally – you get to a state where you have to keep reading (despite the looming call of the alarm clock) because you need to know what Julia will do to escape, allay or fulfil her wants and needs.
Everything else is sort of peripheral – it has its place and its importance, but it’s Julia who is always your focus. That said, the supporting characters are fleshed out realistically – the quirks and traits are built in organically in order to make the experience seem part of life, rather than functional in Julia’s emotional crises. My particular favourites were Jean and Ken, the bickering vision of perhaps every married couple’s future (if they’re lucky) that still shows a spark of love and devotion.
I’m reluctant to say any more as the ending is complex and needs to be read and interpreted according to the individual reader – the climax of the novel is something I feel was handled very carefully in order to make the reader consider their own paths and choices at this time of year where reflection is perhaps a necessity. What it means is down to you, but nonetheless it is sombre and poignant, and Timmins handles this delicately in a manner not to rob us of ambition or hope for happiness, but a way to make us thoughtful of what we desire and how we will achieve it.
Julia’s texts aren’t the only thing worth reading this Christmas – Timmins’ second offering to the Kindle world is a tantalising experience that explores what is truly important in life.