Saturday, December 17, 2011

Family Festivities with Monica McInerney

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 to claim your prize.

And now for Monica...

Thanks very much to Rachael for the invitation to join in her series of Christmas blogs.

My new book, Lola’s Secret, is set in the Clare Valley of South Australia, during a very hot December – a long way from the frosty Irish December I’m having here in Dublin. It’s the sequel to my fourth novel, The Alphabet Sisters, and is the story of Lola Quinlan, 84-year-old Irishwoman, grandmother, charity shop volunteer and Internet whiz. She decides to give her family a break from Christmas and sends them away from the motel they run together, inviting a series of mystery guests to come and stay instead. I wanted to write not just about families with their comedy and drama, but also about community, connections, love new and old and the tensions and memories that Christmas can trigger.

Writing it brought back lots of memories of my own family festivities. Growing up in the Clare Valley, the weeks before Christmas meant heat and holidays. School would finish and my six brothers and sisters and I would be released into seven weeks of freedom, just as the temperatures rose into the high thirties. We’d spend our days at the local swimming pool trying to stay cool, while the preparations for Christmas gathered pace around us. Present-giving was a serious business, requiring fevered saving, research, hint-dropping, stealth-shopping, wrapping and hiding.

My brothers and sisters and I revelled in our Christmas Day ritual of lining up from youngest to oldest outside the living room door early in the morning. Dad would give the word and the door would be thrown open by the youngest. We’d race inside to find our personal pillowcase, our names marked in pen on the front, bulging with presents.

Christmas was a time for food treats too – Fruit Loops and Coco-Pops for breakfast and a bumper order of soft drinks (we were allowed to choose two flavours each).The centrepiece of our festive food celebrations was the leg of ham - a once-a-year treat. Our Dad was the Custodian of the Ham. He would carry it in to the house during Christmas week, nestled in a pillowcase (obviously a theme of McInerney Christmases), place it reverentially in the cleared and readied fridge and then insist it wasn’t to be touched until Christmas morning. The soundtrack for the next few days would be the fridge door opening and shutting, the rustle as the pillow case was pulled back and many peeks and sneaky tastings taken.

On Christmas Day itself, the ham would be served alongside a roast turkey, a mound of crisp, roast potatoes and a platter of parsnips, carrots and peas. Dessert would be wintery plum pudding served with warm custard, despite the searing heat outside. One year, Mum pushed out the culinary boat and decided to serve prawn cocktails as our starter. She’d tried one at a restaurant lunch some weeks before and described it to the seven of us in great detail - a bed of shredded lettuce, a scattering of pale pink prawns, a dollop of Marie Rose sauce. It sounded like it would be heaven in a glass dish. She placed an order for a large quantity of expensive prawns from a friend who lived by the coast, and took delivery of the tightly wrapped parcel on Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning she unwrapped it in front of us. There was silence, and then we started to 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 account of her spoiled lunch and emptied purse, Mum was about to throw the whole lot in the bin when a neighbour dropped in. He took one look and said, ‘Wow, fresh prawns! Do you need any help cooking them?’

Happy Christmas everyone, wherever in the world you are – I hope it’s a time of peace, 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: 
Twitter - @MonicaMcInerney


Noelene said...

Monica, loved reading about your family Christmases in the Clare Valley. I can appreciate the hot summers and have memories of my own living here in the Wimmera of north west Victoria.
I loved Lola in The Alphabet Sisters and the associated family tale around the motel so will watch out for Lola's Secret in store. Sounds like a fascinating tale. I have At Home With The Templetons on my TBR pile and have you marked as one of my favourite authors. Not to suck up, or anything. :)
Thanks for some great heart warming family storytelling.

Helene Young said...

I finished Lola's Secret last week. Thanks, Monica, for another lovely story. Lola was one of those characters who stayed with me long after I finished reading The Alphabet Sister's. It was wonderful to dive back into her crazy world and cheer her on one more time.

Enjoy your Christmas!

Monica McInerney said...

Thanks very much Noelene, and warmest Christmas wishes to the Wimmera from cold and frosty Dublin. Big thanks for your message too, Helene, I'm delighted you enjoyed meeting Lola again, and a very Merry Christmas to you and all the family.

Jacki said...

I've just reread the Alphabet Sisters in preparation for Lola's Secret which I have wrapped and put under the Christmas Tree for myself , also being from an Irish background there must be something about the Christmas Ham, I look forward to it every Year.
Merry Christmas from your Home State of South Australia :)

Di said...

Thanks again Monica for another great heart-warming story. As soon as I bought the book and opened it I knew it was another one I wouldn't be able to put down..

Hope you have a very Merry Christmas.

Monica McInerney said...

Thanks very much, Jacki, and Merry Christmas to you too - I hope you enjoy Lola's Secret AND your Christmas ham!

Monica McInerney said...

Thank you, Di, I'm very glad you enjoyed Lola's Secret - and a very Merry Christmas to you too.

Lacey Devlin said...

Monica, I adore your stories! From the moment I purchased Upside Down, Inside out nine years ago I've been hooked. My copies of your first three books have now had such a workout we've had to involve tape and glue :-) I look forward to all your future releases.

Have a very Merry Christmas!

Monica McInerney said...

Thanks, Lacey - I'm honoured to think your copies of my books are held together by tape and glue! A very Merry Christmas to you and all your family too.

Liou said...