Deceit and Wonder in The Christmas Lights || SPOILER-FREE REVIEW

The Christmas Lights by Karen Swan

4.5/5 STARS


Genre: General Fiction, Contemporary
Author: Karen Swan
Published: October 2018
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Pages: 467 {paperback}

Review on Goodreads

Thank you to Pan Macmillan for sending me a copy of this in exchange for an honest review!

Initial Thoughts Upon Finishing

If you use Instagram, you’ve got to read this book. I enjoyed this so much and I particularly enjoyed how grounding it was. But more on that later. This was an unexpected delight to read, filled with some fantastic (and some nasty) characters. I loved the Norwegian setting and I’m certainly sold on reading more of Swan’s books in the future!

The Christmas Lights

This story follows the ever-watched lives of Bo and Zac, two Instagram famous personalities who run a travel blog. They have a hired photographer, Lenny, and are constantly travelling to all corners of the globe. They’re the perfect couple – or so it seems.

As the story progresses we delve deeper into the difficulties of leading a life in the limelight. Bo struggles with being eternally watched and the line between private and public, regarding what gets shared and when is becoming increasingly blurred – Zac and Lenny pushing and pushing and pushing her until she no longer feels in control of her own life.

It was such a crazy journey of exploring the realities of internet fame and is certainly humbling, making you feel quite content with the manageable size of your own following. The characters are awesome and I could really only have one complaint about the whole thing, regarding the parallel storylines in it (but more on that later). It’s a great little book and one not to be missed.

Why It’s So Good

The writing is fabulous and the point of the story is great and poignant. I think in today’s times it’s so easy to get lost in a frenzy of wanting more followers, more likes, more interaction – and whilst I’m sure this wasn’t entirely the message Swan was sending out – I think it’s a good reminder of just how nice and private and simple life can be. A reminder to look up and smell the roses, and maybe go climb a mountain, too.

Bo was a great main character. I loved living through her difficulties of trying to work out if she was over-reacting with things, or if something was actually wrong. I found this super relatable, overthinking things is the bane of any woman’s life, I swear.

But it’s just such a good read and it certainly picks up the pace towards the end. The last third of the book I read in one day, simply unable to put it down. I was thoroughly surprised by how much I enjoyed it, given that I’m such a sucker for pretty much anything but general fiction.

Favourite Characters

Signy was a blast. The grandmother of Anders (a character who ends up as a guide for Bo and Zac), she is full of sass and life. Her all-seeing eyes are filled with wisdom and you just want to know more and more about her. But, given that the other perspective, set 80 years in the past, is from her – that was not actually what I wanted.

Signy’s younger perspective dragged for me. It felt unnecessary to the story and I’m not sure it brought a lot. Sure, it filled in her story and explained why she was there and where she’d come from, but the many chapters of shepherding goats and sheep weren’t particularly riveting.

Anders, however, wowee. He was something else. So stoic and mysterious, I couldn’t wait to find out more about him. By the time his mystery comes to light, everything is getting rolling in the book and it’s positively TOO exciting. I loved him so much and I’m really happy with where we leave off with him at the end of the book.

Bo, as I’ve said was amazing. She’s a solid, relatable character and learns, eventually, to put her own needs first. Zac, on the other hand, I hated from page one. You just know he’s a bad egg but you can’t put your finger on it. Me being me, it took me forever to nut out all the plot twists in this book but I LOVED IT.


All I can say is this book is full of hidden delights. Great writing, an awesome setting in the solitary, snowy mountains of Norway and several plot twists to die for, what’s not to like!? Highly recommend picking up a copy of this one.

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Happy Reading

~~ Kirstie ~~


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