Yay!! Yay, yay, yay and yay!! I am super excited and happy to tell you that I am done with the OT ’09 Challenge. With the hectic and highly challenging lifestyle that I lead after shifting to Bangalore, I thought I might not be able to finish the Challenge on time this year, but I did!! I made it!! And it feels damn good!!
The last book that I read for OT ’09 was This year it will be different and other stories by Maeve Binchy. The stopover was at Ireland.
This is a collection of short stories by Maeve Binchy – all the 15 stories in one way or the other relating to the Christmas season. I had been reading the stories one by one, off and on, and finally finished reading it yesterday. I read some of the stories from this book for the 100 Shots of Short Challenge. I also read this book for the 4-month Challenge, under the 20-point category (Read a Danielle Steele AND a Maeve Binchy book).
The first story ‘The first step of Christmas’ is about Jenny, who is happily married to David, but is scared of her step-daughter Alison. This Christmas, she decides to take the first step towards making Alison her own. It was a touching story, that left me happy-sad.
The second one ‘The ten snaps of Christmas’ is about young Orla, who receives a camera as a Christmas present and uses all the 10 snaps to take candid snaps of her family members at opportune moments. It was a fun and entertaining read, and brought out what festivals have actually come to be today.
The third story ‘Miss Martin’s wish’ is about a teacher, Miss Martin, who dreams of having a hall built in the school for her children. It is quite a predictable story and was OK-ish.
‘Hard core’, the fourth story, is about a group of residents in an old-age home who are grumpy and grouchy all the time, and no one wants to live with them. I liked the story, though it is quite Bollywoodish. It makes for an entertaining read.
‘Christmas timing’ is the fifth story in the book, about a woman Chris who is involved in an extra-marital affair with Noel. They are both fond of taking the relationship quizzes in newspapers and magazines. This year, they both take the Christmas quiz in the paper, and meet with a realisation. It is quite a sad tale.
‘The civilised Christmas’ is the sixth story, about Jen, the dutiful and doting wife to Martin and a wonderful step-mother to Stevie. She lives under constant fear of Martin’s ex-wife Tina. This Christmas, she decides not to be civilised any more, and tell him what’s on her mind. It is a nice, feel-good story and I liked it quite a bit.
‘Pulling together’ is the seventh story in the book, which is about a few lonely people, feeling lonelier than ever in the Christmas season. It is a sad story, but one full of hope. I found it an average read.
‘A hundred miligrams’, the eighth story, is about a couple – Helen and Nick – who have been through a rough patch in their relationship. This Christmas, they have a realisation. It was a feel-good story, and an entertaining read.
‘The Christmas baramundi’ is the ninth story in the collection. It is about two people – Janet and Liam- who meet each other the day before Christmas in the fish market, fighting over a baramundi. It is a sad story, and left me feeling bitter.
The tenth story ‘This year it will be different’ is the one I liked the most. It is the story of a working wife, who is fed up of taking care of the house and work all on her own, with no help from her husband and kids. This Christmas, she vows to change things.
The eleventh story, ‘Season of fuss’ is about a widow, Mrs. Doyle who fusses over everything, and when Christmas season comes, her fussing becomes unbearable for her children. This Christmas, they decide to do something to stop her fussing.
The twelfth story, ‘An Irish Christmas’, is about a recent widower Ben, who is grieving over his beloved wife’s death some time before Christmas. He decides to go off to Ireland on his own, to avoid ‘sympathy Christmas invitations’ from friends, relatives and colleagues.
‘Travelling hopefully’, the thirteenth story, is one that I liked a lot. It is a cutesy tale about two people – Meg and Tom O’Neill – who are travelling to Australia to meet their kids. Tom is to meet his daughter, who is currently in a live-in relationship, while Meg is to meet her son and his wife, who is a stranger to her. They are scared out of their wits, and how they advice and support each other when they meet on the plane makes for a fun and touching read.
‘What is happiness?’ is the fourteenth story in the book, which is about a couple – Katy and Shane Quinn – and their son Parnell. Shane is involved in an extra-marital affair with a colleague of his, Esther. It is a sad story about how each of them is trying to find his own way to happiness in the Christmas season. Left me feeling depressed.
The fifteenth and last story is ‘The best inn in town’, which is about a couple and their kids, very much tired of the constant animosity between the two grannies in the family. It begins on a negative and sad note, but assumes a hopeful tone later.
Overall, the book is a nice, cosy read that can be enjoyed on a winter afternoon. I grew to like Binchy’s writing style and her characters began to speak to me. I, for sure, look forward to reading more from her.