It’s A Wonderful Life is one of my favourite Christmas films, it’s a must-watch every festive period so when I heard about Carmel Harrington’s new book Every Time A Bell Rings, and that it was based on the themes of It’s A Wonderful Life, I couldn’t resist!
Belle Bailey had a difficult childhood but when she gets placed with foster carer Tess things begin to change for the better. Belle’s happiness increases further when her wish for a best friend comes true as Tess’s next foster child is Jim Looney. Belle and Jim become firm friends but then the day comes when Jim goes back to live with his mum and they lose touch. Eventually they find each other again and fall in love. Life seems set to be perfect for Jim and Belle but they have their struggles and hard times leading to Belle wishing she had never been born. The novel then mirrors It’s a Wonderful Life as Belle gets to see how the world would be if she had never existed.
The opening chapter of this book was so romantic and perfect, that I just knew this book was going to be gorgeous. I have to admit that I was expecting this book to be more of a re-telling of It’s A Wonderful Life but Carmel has actually taken elements of the film and made a new story, and I love the novel all the more for that. We get to see how life was for Belle growing up, we see the struggles she’s had and the devastating things that have happened to her. We get to really understand why she is the way she is.
The novel works so well because when Belle reaches the point of thinking life would be better for everyone if she had never existed we can totally understand how she came to be in such despair, and have real empathy for her. This then makes the novel much more powerful and have a greater impact to see how life would have been without Belle’s existence. I felt so involved in Belle’s story and wanted her to see what a wonderful woman she was, so as she discovered how life was without her it felt absolutely believable because as a reader we already knew how much difference she had made to people.
I adored the idea that some people are just meant to be together and that they will find each other, regardless of where they ended up. This happens to Jim and Belle in different ways throughout the novel and it’s just so heart-warming. I never used to believe in fate until I met my husband, sometimes things are just meant to be and so they will be.
This is such a gorgeous Christmas novel. It’s romantic and festive but it’s also a wonderful reminder to be grateful for what we have and not to dwell on the things that other people have done to hurt us, or on the things we can’t change in our past. I found such comfort and solace in this book, as well as enjoying the story – it just works on so many levels and is one of those utterly perfect reads! This novel is going to be one I read at Christmas for many years to come, it’s so gorgeous!
I must also add how much I love the cover of this novel. I adore how it features a bridge, which is such an important part of this novel (and It’s A Wonderful Life) and how it has a vintage, yet modern feel to it. It’s beautiful!
I rated this novel 5 out of 5 and highly recommend it. I loved it so much that even though I bought an ecopy to read on my Kindle I’m now going to buy a print copy to so I can put it on my bookcase. I’m sure it’ll be a book I buy for others too.
Every Time a Bell Rings is published by Harper Impulse and is out now and available on Amazon.