One of the best books I’ve read this last few months was LOLA’S SECRET by Monica McInerney, so today I’m delighted to bring her to you on my blog, talking about Christmas in this lovely book…
But first, the WINNER of Liia-Ann White’s HER FIRST WHITE CHRISTMAS is TINA!! Huge congrats Tina – please contact Liia-Ann on firstname.lastname@example.org to claim your prize.
And now for Monica…
Thanks verymuch to Rachael for the invitation to join in her series of Christmas blogs.
My newbook, Lola’s Secret, is set in theClare Valley of South Australia, during a very hot December – a long way fromthe frosty Irish December I’m having here in Dublin. It’s the sequel to myfourth novel, The Alphabet Sisters, andis the story of Lola Quinlan, 84-year-old Irishwoman, grandmother, charity shopvolunteer and Internet whiz. She decides to give her family a break from Christmasand sends them away from the motel they run together, inviting a series ofmystery guests to come and stay instead. I wanted to write not just aboutfamilies with their comedy and drama, but also about community, connections,love new and old and the tensions and memories that Christmas can trigger.
Writing itbrought back lots of memories of my own family festivities. Growing up in theClare Valley, the weeks before Christmas meant heat and holidays. School wouldfinish and my six brothers and sisters and I would be released into seven weeksof freedom, just as the temperatures rose into the high thirties. We’d spend ourdays at the local swimming pool trying to stay cool, while the preparations forChristmas gathered pace around us. Present-giving was a serious business,requiring fevered saving, research, hint-dropping, stealth-shopping, wrappingand hiding.
My brothersand sisters and I revelled in our Christmas Day ritual of lining up fromyoungest to oldest outside the living room door early in the morning. Dad wouldgive the word and the door would be thrown open by the youngest. We’d raceinside to find our personal pillowcase, our names marked in pen on the front,bulging with presents.
Christmaswas a time for food treats too – Fruit Loops and Coco-Pops for breakfast and abumper order of soft drinks (we were allowed to choose two flavours each).Thecentrepiece of our festive food celebrations was the leg of ham – a once-a-yeartreat. Our Dad was the Custodian of the Ham. He would carry it in to the house duringChristmas week, nestled in a pillowcase (obviously a theme of McInerneyChristmases), place it reverentially in the cleared and readied fridge and theninsist it wasn’t to be touched until Christmas morning. The soundtrack for thenext few days would be the fridge door opening and shutting, the rustle as thepillow case was pulled back and many peeks and sneaky tastings taken.
OnChristmas Day itself, the ham would be served alongside a roast turkey, a moundof crisp, roast potatoes and a platter of parsnips, carrots and peas. Dessertwould be wintery plum pudding served with warm custard, despite the searingheat outside. One year, Mum pushed out the culinary boat and decided to serveprawn cocktails as our starter. She’d tried one at a restaurant lunch someweeks before and described it to the seven of us in great detail – a bed ofshredded lettuce, a scattering of pale pink prawns, a dollop of Marie Rosesauce. It sounded like it would be heaven in a glass dish. She placed an orderfor a large quantity of expensive prawns from a friend who lived by the coast, andtook delivery of the tightly wrapped parcel on Christmas Eve. On Christmasmorning she unwrapped it in front of us. There was silence, and then we startedto pull faces and make gagging noises. ‘I’m not eating those!’ ‘Me either!’‘They’re rotten!’ ‘They’re green, not pink!’ ‘Yuk!’ Broken-hearted on accountof her spoiled lunch and emptied purse, Mum was about to throw the whole lot inthe bin when a neighbour dropped in. He took one look and said, ‘Wow, freshprawns! Do you need any help cooking them?’
HappyChristmas everyone, wherever in the world you are – I hope it’s a time ofpeace, fun, celebrations and delicious (cooked) food for you all.
Magic can happen in every family.At the Valley View Motel in South Australia’s picturesque Clare Valley, eighty-four-year-old Lola Quinlan is up to her usual mischief. She’s sent her family away for Christmas and invited a number of mystery guests to come and stay. But who are all these people, and why aren’t they spending the festive season with their own loved ones?
As the big day draws closer and Lola’s personal family dramas threaten to unravel her plans, she discovers that at a special time of year, magic can happen in every family – especially your own.
From the bestselling author of At Home with the Templetons comes a funny, sad and moving novel about memories and moments and the very meaning of life
You can find Monica at the following places: