The Unwrapping of Theodora Quirke

Author: Caroline Smailes

Publisher: Red Door Press

Available: 15th October 2020 in Paperback and eBook

Thank you to Lizzie at Red Door Press and Caroline Smailes for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

A Christmas Carol meets a very Northern Stranger Things in this funny, sweary and moving festive story

‘Funny and touching and utterly brilliant’ – Rachael Lucas

‘A remarkable, funny, truly redemptive read’ – Miranda Dickinson

When 19-year old Theodora Quirke heads to work on Christmas Eve the last person she expects to find outside of her flat is St Nicholas of Myra – the Saint people think is Santa Claus (much to Saint Nick’s disgust).

Given he is in full Santa suit and professing to be nearly 2000 years old Theo is wary, but St Nick insists he is here to save her – although he isn’t sure how or why. St Nick does know that Theo is grieving however, so he shows her four scenes from her life that give her hope, but he’s also had cryptic messages from the Christmas Higher Powers that lead him to begin Theo’s training as the first ever female Christmas Angel – a role Theo is not sure she is cut out for.

Theo’s training is soon derailed by St Nick’s evil brother, filled with jealousy and spite over his brother’s popularity and, with confidence dented, and saddened by society’s spiralling levels of expectation and greed, St Nick begins to falter. Theo does everything she can to defeat Nick’s brother and to lift St Nick’s spirits, but as the deadline for Christmas miracles draws close, she realises she must complete them herself – but is she up to the job?

My Thoughts:

This book is the perfect parody of a Christmas tale, profound, peculiar and utterly irreverent, with a definite essence of Dickensian spirit in the sense that Caroline Smailes has humorously obliterated the warm and cosy side of the season, and instead has created a series of raw and gritty events which have left the main character Theodora Quirke with plenty of experience that, Christmas is not the most wonderful time of the year!

The book opens with Theo (Theodora) meeting St Nicholas on Christmas Eve (he is most certainly not the picture of the universally recognised Santa Claus nor is he sponsored by coco-cola) he is the antithesis of what we normally associate with Father Christmas, he is not jolly chap in a lovely red suit, more “how Santa would look before he goes into rehab for alcohol addiction and possibly after spending 3 months on the streets”.  Theo is rather bemused by the whole episode and to the reason, why he’s here to see her and what does the rather grubby weird note he has mean…Save Theo, Spitfire & Oral…!

What is unwrapped is a very ‘Christmas Carolesque’ style adventure, St Nicholas takes Theo to view some rather traumatic elements of her past involving her mother and her boyfriend Gabe (Gabriel), which makes for ghastly view (have the tissues ready) and it is partly to allow Theo to emotionally process what has happened to her previously and partly to allow her to move forward and be open to a completely new experience/life as a Christmas Angel and before now there has never been a female Christmas Angel, Theo will be the first one…can she prove to ‘up there’ that she can fly on her own???

There is also a more dark and dastardly element to this story for us readers to revel in and throughout the book there are sections (they read like social media posts) relating to Dottie Smith and the ‘Spitfire, Saint Nicholas Umbrella Collective’ . Dottie has clearly had an ‘miracle experience’ with Saint Nicholas and this plot line all starts innocently enough but by increments you start to realise, something diabolical is afoot…want to know what it is…?? And what do these posts and Dottie have to do with Theo, Christmas Miracles and Saint Nicholas…As if I am going to give those plot elements away…no chance!! I know I am a complete meanie!

Now you may think, I have been rather reticent about the story details in my review, well that is only because I hate spoiling other people’s first-hand experience of a story and this one deserves its audience to have the same snarky, sarkie, sublime surprises I found when I read it. This glorious book, caused me to howl with laughter one minute and sob buckets the next, it is utterly hopeful and wonderful and you will truly miss out on an exceptional read if you don’t get a copy. Add it to your Christmas lists, buy it as a Christmas gift…I insist. I am off now to add several more of Caroline’s books to my wantie list…

Happy Reading Bookophiles

About the Author:

Caroline Smailes’ acclaimed debut novel, IN SEARCH OF ADAM, was published in 2007 (The Friday Project/HarperCollins). The Big Issue North declared the book ‘an engrossing and touching read from a new talent’. Since then Caroline has written four additional novels. These include BLACK BOXES, international bestseller LIKE BEES TO HONEY, an experimental digital novel with eleven endings 99 REASONS WHY and modern day fairy tale THE DROWNING OF ARTHUR BRAXTON (all HarperCollins). The film of THE DROWNING OF ARTHUR BRAXTON is in post-production, with an expected 2020 release.

Caroline lives in the North West of England. She is also known as Caroline Wallace (THE FINDING OF MARTHA LOST).

Please keep an eye out for other posts on the tour.

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