I clearly remember my first Monica McInerney: Those Faraday Girls, a birthday gift from my best friend. Little did my friend know at the time that she was gifting me so much more than an excellent novel. She had given me a new author to love, whose work was reminiscent of Maeve Binchy but with a distinctly Australian style. Needless to say, I devoured Those Faraday Girls and set about acquiring all of Monica’s novels from that point on.
There’s something you need to know about Monica’s novels and it’s really quite important to remember: you can’t read them in public.
I can give you a solid example that will demonstrate why. My daughter is a dancer. Back when she was still young, less than 10 years old, I used to stay at the dance hall for her long rehearsals, dispensing drinks and snacks and bandaids between practises. This was before smart phones and ipads, so entertainment included talking to fellow parents (yes, shocking I know, having an actual conversation face to face as opposed to over social media parked side by side in our cars), reading books and magazines, and staring at your fingernails and wishing you’d brought a nail file. One Saturday, I brought in my new Monica, At Home With The Templetons. I should have known better, this was not my first Monica, but still, I just had to bring it along.
It’s very hard to laugh and cry at the same time without other people noticing. There were tears and snorts of laughter that got caught up with sobs and the worst part about it: I HAD FORGOTTEN TO BRING TISSUES!!
As beloved as they are, from that day on, I vowed to only read them at home. The following Saturday, I took a magazine, only to sit down and see three other women engrossed in Monica’s novels, all with a sensible packet of tissues discreetly tucked in beside them. It was nice to see that my public display of erratic emotion had not entirely gone to waste.
So this is the other thing you need to know about Monica’s novels: they are untouchable in terms of emotional resonance. Her words never fail to reach out and take a hold of me. I have laughed until tears are running down my face, cried until I can no longer see the words on the page in front of me, and as previously mentioned, done both at the same time. I’ll never forget Lola in The Alphabet Sisters with her haberdashery stapler, hemming her curtains with staples! Each novel has been truly memorable and I am so grateful to my friend for that long ago birthday gift she selected. Imagine the hole in my reading life if I’d never discovered Monica McInerney.
I was so lucky, and thrilled to bits, to have received last year a very special copy of The Alphabet Sisters from Monica herself, sent all the way from Ireland. Not only signed, but with a personalised message. It’s a gift I will treasure forever. While I absolutely adore each and every one of Monica’s novels, The Alphabet Sisters is my favourite. The rest are all 10/10 for me, but The Alphabet Sisters nudges over to 11/10.
If you have never read a Monica, I urge you to run down to the shops immediately and buy the first one that you see. If you have read her novels, then you probably know exactly what I’m talking about here and you’re no doubt already walking over to your bookshelf to pull out your favourite for a quick revisit. Lucky for me, I have set aside Monica’s newest novel, The Trip of a Lifetime, for my Christmas holidays. It’s sitting there waiting for me, ready to be devoured in tears and laughter.
I can’t wait.