This is admitted to be a story based loosely on Dickens’ Christmas Carol. The main characters appear as:
3 Messages (Ghosts of Christmas, past, present and future);
Little Tim who is disabled;
A large turkey!
A Clerical worker.
Plus a few more characters thrown in for good measure. Now scoliosis is an interesting diagnosis for a young child. The NHS guide says that it rarely causes any issues in children other than a visible curve of the spine. It is adults who experience back pain. It affects 3-4 children out of every 1000, usually starting from adolescence, so for Tim’s to start earlier is very unusual and is most likely to be caused by, or is in combination with, another illness. Children are usually treated conservatively with just a back brace to help the back straighten and prevent more curvature, so it was surprising that Tim apparently wasn’t wearing one, especially as he was supposed to be badly curved. Unless the curvature is more than 50 degrees, and the brace has not kept it under control, surgery would not be considered. The surgery would fuse the spine in places and thus restrict movement which you do not want to do in a young child. And Tim was apparently a very active child so not something you would want to do to him.
And just a note about the NHS, if Tim’s curve needed this surgery he would yes, be on a waiting list, but would be high on it not low. And the waiting time for operations is rarely more than a few months for anything that is impeding normal life. My own experience has been a waiting time from 3 months maximum to 10 days!
There is almost never any need for private surgery and certainly you would not want to wait years for this, unless there is a special treatment you want that is not available – like a private bathroom! Which is very nice I admit, having had both private and NHS operations. I did like having the chef come round and consult me about what I wanted to eat and to bake lovely small delicacies to tempt the appetite at tea-time. That said, both times i had private treatment it did not go as well as my NHS treatment (I speak here as the person whose operations cannot now be counted on 2 hands).
I’m guessing that the book was set in the UK because the writer was British but the premise was better suited to the US. If you want the UK as a setting then you need to find a more obscure disease where treatment is not available in the UK and you have to pay for a trip abroad etc.
So, having had a good moan here about the hook around which the story was set, I did find it an irritant, but trying to be objective, without the knowledge of how the NHS works , the story could read quite well. Especially in the US where medical treatment is very expensive indeed – we would have been bankrupt several times over with my operations!
I liked the pie throwing scene but felt that it could have been better exploited and more made of it. What about a viral YouTube video for instance? Again more could have been made about the lottery win.
Overall, as a first novel it was acceptable but the author still needs to develop her techniques.