It took me a while to get into The Christmas Lights by Karen Swan.

I kept reading the book when I may have given up on others because I like Karen Swan’s work and because the back cover intrigued me.

I now realize that the book became enjoyable once Zac, one of the main characters, wasn’t in the picture as much. And then I couldn’t put it down.

The Christmas Lights (which has Christmas in the title, but is not Christmas book, $24.99, Publishers Group Canada) follows the story of Bo Boxley and her fiance Zac, free-spirited influencers who travel the globe and post pictures of their adventures to their millions of followers on Instagram. They leave a topic island where the book begins to go to Norway in December, staying on an off-the-grid shelf farm owned by mountain guide Anders and his grandmother, Signy.

“Surrounded by snowy peaks and frozen falls,everything should be perfect. But the camera can lie, and with every new post the ‘perfect’ life Zac and Bo are portraying is diverging from the truth. Something Bo can’t explain is wrong at the very heart of their lives and Anders is the only person who will listen.”

Because the couple like to do things other travellers can’t – or won’t – the couple, their ever present photographer Lenny, a representative from a Norwegian outdoor wear company and Anders go on one adventure where Bo falls into the freezing waters. She gets really sick and moves off of the farm, where this is no electricity or running water, and stays at Anders’ home until she is better.

While Zac and the rest still make an appearance, we get to know the real Bo without the noise of the others. I like Bo. I obviously do not like Zac or the others. I also like Anders, who is gruff, but who shows kindness and compassion, and Signy, who shows there is so much more to then her outward appearance.

The book also flips between the present to 1936, when Signy (the grandmother) is 14 and she, her sister and the village girls are sent to the summer pastures to work as milkmaids. This story is also really interesting, particularly as the entire book comes together at the end.

“The mountains keep secrets – Signy knows this better than anyone – and as Bo’s life begins to spiral she is forced, like the old woman before her, to question who is friend and who is foe.”

In addition to offering all these neat plots and subplots, the book is beautiful. Swan does an amazing job of describing Norway and its beauty.

Read a Q&A with Karen Swan about The Christmas Secret.

Read my review of Karen Swan’s The Rome Affair.

A copy of this book was provided by PGC Books for an honest review.
The opinions are my own.