Going to have this count towards Melbourne Cup Day! Some of the stories take place in Australia! Lucky me! I will make sure that I identify them below.
You all know that I love Maeve Binchy. She wrote some fantastic short story collections that I always recommend to people. I hit a nasty reading slump and started reading some of her collections/books that I have been meaning to get around to some day.
The First Step of Christmas (5 stars)-revolves around a stepmother who is trying to deal with throwing her and her husband's annual Christmas party. We find out that Jenny (the stepmother) has not been able to get through to her husband's daughter (Alison). The story sets it up as if Alison has been a pain throughout her courtship and marriage. I honestly just felt badly for her especially when you find out that her mother died. I did like how this story ends though with Binchy showing that Alison is a lonely girl who misses her mother.
The Ten Snaps of Christmas (5 stars)-Yikes. This one made me think of The Family Stone movie. Pretty much everyone is awful and you want it to be over. The mother (Maura) in this one pushes for her daughter (Orla) to get a voucher for clothes. The dad ix-nays that whole thing and they buy her a Polaroid camera. Why you would by a teen this is beyond me. Eventually Orla takes 10 pictures that shows what her family is really like when not pretending to be perfect for the holidays.
Miss Martin's Wish (5 stars)-This one takes place mainly in New York though the story begins with Miss Martin as a teacher in Ireland. We eventually find out that she has left practically at the altar and the plan was for her and her ex-fiancee to go to New York together on their honeymoon. She eventually travels there and meets someone (not in a romantic sense!) and I liked how this story ended.
The Hard Core (4 stars)-This one takes place in Melbourne, Australia. The main part of this story is that the owner of an old age home (Kate) is taken away during the holidays after her mother suffers an accident. The Hard Core refers to a group of elderly residents who cause no end of suffering by the staff cause they are pretty much jerks. Kate has to ask a staff member about staying behind to watch The Hard Core. I don't know if I found this one very realistic, but I still enjoyed it all the same.
Christmas Timing (5 stars)-I maybe laughed through this whole story. We have two people, Chris and Noel (guess which is the woman and which is the man) who are engaging in an affair. They think that the other one is the love of their lives, but Noel is not ready to leave his wife and children, because the children are too small. Sure Jan. These two fools love to take magazine quizzes that affirm their love for each other. This Christmas is different though when they both take a quiz that forces you to fill out answers. I maybe laughed hysterically about what the answers revealed.
The Civilized Christmas (3 stars)-I really didn't like this one. The stepmother in this one (Jen) is just a martyr through and through and I got tired of it. She has a stepson (Stevie) who she is constantly taking back and forth to her husband's first wife's home. Jen is jealous of Tina and thinks that Martin and Stevie are comparing their lives at the home they share with Tina. I mostly felt pity for Stevie cause I can see in future stories Jen being angry if Martin shows more affection and love for Stevie than for her.
Pulling Together (5 stars)-It doesn't take place in Australia, but the main character Penny writes a weekly air mail to her friend Maggie in Australia. Kangaroos are mentioned. This is another short story about adultery though. Penny never goes away to see her family or friends since she wants to be on "call" in case her married lover can come and see her. When she pushes back about being there for the holidays he makes her feel guilty about leaving him to his family. Yeah. He sounds like a jerk. Penny eventually ends up finding out surprising things about a student of her's (called Lassie) and a fellow teacher (Ms. Hall). I liked how the three of them end up needing each other for the holidays.
A Hundred Milligrams (5 stars)-This short story shows the aftermath of an affair on a couple and the woman's mother. Having this mess go on during the holidays makes me yearn to hide from people.
The Christmas Baramundi (4 stars)- This one takes place in Pyremont, New South Wales, Australia. Apparently this has a fish market that sets the stage for another tale of adultery around the Christmas season. I felt pity for the main character in this one (Janet). She seems to have a lot of dreams left unfilled and decides to rest them all on a dude she meets (Liam) when they were both trying to buy a baramundi. I would be off fish for life.
This Year it Will be Different (5 stars)-A mother finally gets fed up for doing everything around the holidays for her lazy husband and two sons and daughter. She doesn't get the exact result she wanted, but you are left with the ending of how she plans on changing things in the future.
Season of Fuss (5 stars)- About the Doyle family and them getting their mother who loves to fuss to settle in and enjoy Christmas. I did love that Binchy shows that once the mother is left with nothing to do, how her personality changes and starts to dwell on her dead husband.
A Typical Irish Christmas (5 stars)- This one takes place in the New York, but eventually moves to Ireland. A man (Ben) who wants to be left to his own devices for the holiday after the death of his wife. Ben decides to go to Ireland to leave behind all of the well being people who want him to come to their homes instead.
Traveling Hopefully (5 stars)- Meg is traveling to Australia for the holidays to meet her son and his new wife. She is apprehensive since she feels like she doesn't know her son much these days. She ends up striking up a friendship with Tom who is also traveling to Australia to meet up with his daughter. I thought this one was so cute and I liked the ending.
What is Happiness? (3 stars)-Another aftermath of an affair with the other woman hell-bent on wrecking her ex-lover's life. Told from the POV of the young son.
The Best Inn in Town (5 stars)-This was a good way to end the book. Avril and Noel both have mothers who are bossy and nasty towards the other. For some reason both grandmothers come to them during Christmas which causes no end of making sure that nothing is done to upset them. They eventually get fed up with it and hard shrug about making Christmas preparations for them. I loved how the kids were portrayed in this one. I also laughed at the reference to The Empire Strikes Back.