Monday, October 15, 2012

Lola's Secret by Monica McInerney

A long time ago, back in my pre-blogging days (yes, that long ago) I picked up a book called The Alphabet Sisters. One cold, rainy Sunday afternoon I thought I would just read for a while. I was curled up on the couch, near the heater with a cosy blanket and I just kept on turning the pages, one after another. I laughed and I cried (oh boy, did I cry). It was my first Monica McInerney book, but since then I have read a few more, and bought even more that I haven't yet read.

When I heard that Lola, the indomitable grandmother from The Alphabet Sisters was going to be the main character in this book I knew that I would have to read it. I bought it when I was spending the day up at Bendigo but since then it has sat on my shelf unread, until I saw that there was a blog tour- finally the encouragement I needed to actually get the book off the shelf and read it!

Lola Quinlan is looking forward to her family going away and leaving her to own devices this Christmas. She is not, however, going to be by herself. Instead she has placed an ad looking for guests to come to stay at the family motel for Christmas and Lola will use any means at her disposal to have people around her at this time of the year. You have to wonder why she doesn't want her family around, and also who are these people who will come to a small town in country Australia instead of being with their families.

Among the prospective guests there is a young man who has lost his job, his girlfriend and his hope, who has a terrible plan for this Christmas. There is a also a couple who have been dealing with the aftermath of a terrible accident and the wife is at the end of her tether. Also at the end of their tether, three sisters who are growing up in something akin to a battlefield rather than a loving family environment.

Before Lola can even begin to worry about her guests though, she has plenty to keep herself busy. Despite being drawn closer together when their sister Anna was ill, Lola's granddaughters Bett and Carrie can't seem to get along. Both are struggling with getting the balance between the demands of their young children, keeping house, keeping their husbands happy and so much more. Anna's daughter is having trouble dealing with the fact that her father is looking to move on with his life. And then, there is the charity shop! Lola has been volunteering at the charity shop in town for years, but she doesn't feel as happy there since a new 'volunteer' has started who has very definite ideas which clash with Lola's own thoughts.

Along the way, there are revelations about the past and the future, and the rekindling of a friendship that Lola had thought long lost.

US Cover
In some ways I think this book suffers a bit of an identity crisis. Is it a book abut a family matriarch doing what she does best - pulling her family together despite their losses? Or is it a book about strangers coming together at Christmas? In the end it is very clearly one of those, but the story gets a bit distracted by the other things that are thrown in the mix.

One thing that did think was really well represented was the heat of an Australian Christmas. I know it is something that fascinates people from the Northern hemisphere, but a hot Chrismtas is a normal Christmas for us. The heat, the dust, the effort to fit all the traitional (winterish) aspects of the celebration into a very different environment and more. There is a chance that I might find myself near  Clare (the small town where this book is set) and if I find myself at a loose end for a few hours, I might even go and visit Clare, especially seeing one of my favourite wineries is near the town.

Rating 3.5/5

Tour Details

Tour schedule
Monica's website
Monica on Facebook


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.
As an added bonus today, I thought I should mention that I have met Monica McInerney a couple of times now. The first was a couple of years ago when she was doing a publicity tour for At Home with the Templetons (you can read about that meeting here) but the last time was last week. Once again the author is on the publicity trail, this time for her new book The House of Memories which has just been released here in Australia.

In a very clever contest idea, the publisher asked the public to help build a house of memories and by doing so you got a chance to win the entire backlist by the author plus $1000 spending money! the way that the entrants hepled to build the house of memories was by each writing a memory on a small piece of paper to an outline of a picture. By the end of the day, all the pieces of paper formed a picture of a house which was based on the cover of the book! So clever.

Monica McInerney was also there with some of her family but I had to rush back to work so couldn't stay and chat! I did manage to get a few pictures of the house, to share my memory with her and to get my book signed too. If I could get the photos off of my phone I would share them with you, but I am being thwarted by technology at the moment! I will add them into the post later.

Early in the day

At the end of the day

I read this book for the following  challenges.


  1. I am reading this now (on the tour next week) and really enjoying it. She reminds me of Maeve Binchy. I agree there was a lot going on in the book but it makes me feel like I in the Clare Valley with them all!

    1. Monica McInerney does get a lot of comparisons to Maeve Binchy. Look forward to reading your review.

  2. I read The Faraday Girls years ago, but have never read anything else by this author.

    I love that House of Memories idea.

    1. Those Faraday Girls is one of the books that I have on my shelf that I have had signed but haven't actually read yet!

  3. So cool to have met the author in person! This does sound like a really interesting read. I am wondering why Lola feels the need to be surrounded this Christmas in particular, and how the guests that choose to stay factor into her plans. Very nice review today. This book intrigues me deeply!

    1. Heather, I would highly recommend reading The Alphabet Sisters first.

  4. Oh, wow, the house is so cool! I just read Lola's Secret, recently, and loved it. Lola is a terrific character! Now I definitely want to read The Alphabet Sisters. Lola's Secret was my first book by the author.

    We often have what we call Barefoot Christmases, where we live, although we're in the northern hemisphere. It just depends on the year. It can be icy or warm enough to wear shorts. I prefer it cold, since it's hot for a good 7 or 8 months of the year, if not more.

    1. If you liked Lola you will really love The Alphabet Sisters I think!

  5. House of Memories was my first Monica McInerney read and I was going to request this one on NetGalley but I haven't read The Alphabet Sisters yet so think I might hold off.
    Cool pics what a fantastic idea :)

  6. How great that you got to meet her and I love the House of Memories idea. I really enjoyed that book. I haven't read Lola's Secret yet though

    Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

  7. Wow, the covers are so different! A friend of mine saw Monica McInerney when she came over here. She had so much fun!

  8. I love the "house of memories" - what a creative idea!

    Thanks for being on the tour Marg.

  9. I love McInerney's novels and i really enjoyed The Alphabet Sisters so Lola's Secret has been on my wishlist. You're so lucky to have met Monica! I haven't met her but i have visited her home town in the Clare Valley and signed my name in a visitors book in a winery there only to see that Monica had visited the month before and signed her name! That's the closest i've come to seeing her lol

  10. I wish I had read The Alphabet Sisters first :( I think I might have had a chance to really connect with the characters more. Lola's Secret was just too busy for me.



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