EXCERPT: Taken from ‘Half of Ninety’
Kay woke up because the curtains in her bedroom were being pulled back. This hadn’t happened for a long time, not for five long years since Peter had left. It gave her a shock.
Then she heard a breakfast tray rattling and saw a big vase of flowers on a table. Her daughter Helen must have let herself into the house and was giving her a birthday treat.
‘It’s all from Nick as well,’ Helen explained, not wanting to take all the praise. ‘He delivered the flowers, reminded me to keep the half bottle of champagne cold, he would have been here if he could.’
‘Champagne!’ Kay couldn’t believe it.
She felt tears in her eyes. They were so good to her and always had been.
‘Just half a bottle and fresh orange juice – you are going to have a Bucks Fizz or a Mimosa or whatever they call it.’ Helen was struggling with the cork.
Kay sat up in bed happily. There were fresh croissants on a warmed plate and a Thermos flask of coffee. This breakfast could go on all morning if she wanted it to. And why not? Her day was her own until ten o’clock when she went to work in a nearby antique shop, and it wouldn’t really matter if she were late. They didn’t depend on her to run it, exactly.
But she wouldn’t think of that now as she sipped the fizzy orange. Alcohol at eight in the morning – whatever next?
‘I’ll just have a sip then I must go to work.’ Helen was all busy and excited. ‘Anyway, tonight Mum, it’s the birthday present. Nick and I will be here at seven o’clock to pick you up and we’ll all go to this restaurant and give you our present.’
‘But this is my present, this and the dinner, surely?’ Kay protested.
‘Nonsense. We have to do something special – after all, it’s not every day your mother makes it to half of ninety!’
ABOUT ‘A FEW OF THE GIRLS’: The Irish do love telling stories, and we are suspicious of people who don’t have long, complicated conversations. There used to be a rule in etiquette books that you should invite four talkers and four listeners to a dinner party. That doesn’t work in Ireland, because nobody knows four listeners’
Maeve Binchy’s bestselling novels not only tell wonderful stories, they also give an insight in to how Ireland has changed over the decades, but how people remain the same: they still fall in love, sometimes unsuitably; they still have hopes and dreams; they have deep, long-standing friendships, and some that fall apart. From her earliest writing to her most recent, Maeve’s work has included wonderfully nostalgic pieces and also sharp, often witty writing which is insightful and topical. But at the heart of all Maeve’s fiction are the people and their relationships with each other.
MY THOUGHTS: A Few of the Girls is a collection of short stories from much loved author Maeve Binchy that were published posthumously. They are stories focusing on relationships, both good and bad. And just as there are good and bad relationships in the stories, there are good and bad stories in this collection. Some of them show their age and others are totally relevant. A mixed, but perfectly enjoyable, bag.
THE AUTHOR: Maeve Binchy was born in County Dublin and educated at the Holy Child convent in Killiney and at University College, Dublin. After a spell as a teacher she joined the Irish Times. Her first novel, Light a Penny Candle, was published in 1982 and she went on to write over twenty books, all of them bestsellers. Several have been adapted for cinema and television, most notably Circle of Friends and Tara Road. Maeve Binchy received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the British Book Awards in 1999 and the Irish PEN/A. T. Cross award in 2007. In 2010 she was presented with the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award at the Bord Gais Irish Book Awards by the President of Ireland. She was married to the writer and broadcaster Gordon Snell for 35 years, and died in 2012.