The Christmas Cafe
by Amanda Prowse
Bea does not believe in second chances.
A widow at fifty-three, Bea knows she must accept that she will be alone forever. She buries her grief in hard work, and soon the deli she runs in Surry Hills has a reputation for the best carrot cake in Sydney.
But then an email from a cafe-owner in Edinburgh leads her to take a trip to Scotland in the depths of winter. There, transported by the twinkling lights and falling snow of a traditional Christmas, Bea is drawn back to a secret past – and a secret love – that she has long ago tried to forget…
The book opens with Bea saying goodbye to her husband of nearly thirty years and facing up to life alone at only 53. But we find out from Bea’s memories that the marriage wasn’t totally conventional, with hurt and heartbreak being a part of Bea’s life from an early age.
During the following year Bea turns her attention to making a success of her cafe. When she receives an email from a fellow cafe owner in Scotland a chain of events is set in motion culminating in her granddaughter, Flora, coming to stay with her because of problems at home and at school.
The two make the decision to go on holiday and decide on Scotland for a traditional pre-Christmas and to visit Bea’s new friend in the Christmas Cafe.
I love the all the characters in this book, but especially Bea and Flora who have such a strong bond between them and it’s lovely to see them grow ever closer as the novel goes on. But even the smaller characters, like Mr Giraldi, are brought to life so well and give the novel an extra depth.
Amanda Prowse is excellent on place setting and you get a really strong feel for, firstly, the heat of Australia and then the wintry feel of of a Christmas Edinburgh with blazing hearths just wraps itself around you.
As all the different strands of the story come together you find yourself smiling and crying at the same time; no mean feat.
The Christmas Cafe is a really good story from a really good author.