Review: ‘Bertie’s Gift’ by Hannah Coates

What’s better than one doggy Christmas tale? That’s right – two doggy Christmas tales (or should that be tails?) This time it’s my turn to review ‘Bertie’s Gift‘ a true Christmas feel good story of a young family in turmoil and the dog who helps them heal.

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Bertie the Beagle lives with his sister who he dotes upon, and a rag-tag troop of dogs with Old Man Minton. They used to have a loving existence when his wife was alive, but since she passed away, Old Man Minton began to resent the dogs more each day. When Bertie and one of the older dogs do some damage to one of Old Mrs Minton’s dresses, the old man has had enough and carts the dogs to the nearest shelter. Bertie is devastated when he and his sister are first of all separated at the shelter and then she is adopted before him by an evil-looking pinch-faced woman, leaving him behind.

When Bertie is adopted himself by the Green family he is so happy to have found his own home, with a young boy, Sam, who adores him, his father, John and Granny Margaret. The only down-side to his new found domestic bliss? Cats. Two of them, Rico and Kitty, a brother and sister team who don;t take kindly to a canine invading their space.

As Bertie settles into the Green’s, it soon becomes clear that all is not well in the household. A tragedy two years before is still devastating the family, and the grief is pulling the father and son apart. Bertie knows that he needs to help his new family to heal but he too is distracted. On one of his walks he has seen his beloved sister Molly and as determined as he is to help Sam, he knows in his heart that he needs to save her too. Enlisting the help of Rico and Kitty and next door’s mad poodle Pepper, Bertie has to find a way to help them both and to put their family back together, all in time for Christmas.

Bertie’s Gift‘ is a real aww-some kind of a read. Featuring a young, impetuous and remarkably intuitive dog, this is the kind of Christmas story which will warm your cockles and leaves you with a true feel-good ending. It is fast, entertaining and the dogs, particularly Pepper and good old Bertie, are very entertaining.

Now I won’t go into the plot too much here, as it would spoil the enjoyment of the story. It really does centre around our hero Bertie as he tries to navigate his new life with the Greens. His character is very well observed, all of the cheeky and boisterous nature you would expect from a Beagle type dog, but his affection for those he loves is truly touching. In spite of making some mistakes, he really does care about all of those about him. He is a soft natured dog but determined enough to fight for what he believes in most.

Told in Bertie’s voice is adds an interesting dynamic to the story, he can sense the atmosphere between Sam and his father but doesn’t understand it at first. When he learns the truth he knows he needs to provide comfort but while we can hear his thoughts, understand his empathy, he is almost helpless as he cannot tell Sam or Granny M that he understands. That he misses someone too. He is just a dog, limited to the actions a dog can take, and misunderstood by humans too preoccupied by their own fears to pay him any heed. Will he ever make them understand?

There are some real moments of humour throughout the book. The dynamic between the Paw Print Club, Rico, Kitty, Bertie and Pepper, is brilliant. I have had dogs and cats my whole life and can totally recognise the disdain with which half of the cats have viewed the dogs and the enthusiasm or apprehension felt by the dogs to the cats. This is captured perfectly in this novel and Kitty’s snooty indifference towards Bertie just puts me in mind of my own kitten. She’ll speak to the dog but only on her terms.

At the heart of the story is a real family tragedy and the tension that existed between Sam and his father had such a ring of authenticity to it. You can picture this happening in homes across the world, time and again. Two people in so much pain but unable to communicate their feelings. One trying his best to be the father he thinks his son needs, the other afraid of being a disappointment because of an underlying sense of guilt. It is such a moving story that you cannot help but hope that Bertie is able to help them in some way.

This is exactly the kind of book I could see parents reading with their children, although as a full blown old fart of an adult I enjoyed it too. All of the action happens in the lead up to Christmas with Bertie finally understanding the real beauty of the season having never experienced a family Christmas before. Whether he is able to work some magic and it will be a season of peace and goodwill to all in the end… Well, you’ll have to read and find out. Won’t you?

A paws-for-thought inspiring, wooftastic 4 stars.

4

I chose to review this book having been provided with an ARC by Netgalley and publishers Hodder & Stoughton. ‘Bertie’s Gift‘ is available to purchase at the following links:

Amazon UK

Amazon.com