Once in a Lifetime Paperback – 3 Mar 2009
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'Wise, warm, compassionate, full of characters that I loved and identified with, it's like having a great gossip with your best friends. Her best book yet' Marian Keyes
‘This top-notch storyteller once again cuts to the quick of modern women’s lives and their relationships’ Woman & Home
From the Author
When did you start writing?
It sounds clichéd to say I’ve always written, but I have such vivid memories of being twelve and sitting up in bed writing in my notebook. I studied journalism after I left school and got a job in a newspaper, where I stayed for fourteen years. So I’ve worked as a professional writer all my grown up life. Wow! Sounds mad to say it. I dreamed of writing fiction but never really had the confidence to do it, and although I had a couple of abortive attempts to write a novel, I finally put my heart and soul into it during the mid ‘90s and wrote my first book. I’ve just started my twelfth. Yet again, sounds mad.
Where do you write?
I have a beautiful study in my house in Wicklow and from the window, I can see rolling hills and woodland. But I try to keep my eyes on the computer.
What are the pros and cons of being a writer?
I think it’s one of the best jobs in the world. I love writing – not that it isn’t tough on many occasions when the story’s not working and you think you’re a total idiot, which happens every day, basically – but I have a job I love. I am so lucky. Do you know, I can’t really think of any cons apart from the ones every person has about a job: you know, am I doing it right, will I get fired for screwing up! The negatives are what happens in my own head because I am so self-critical and let’s face it, no matter what job I had, I’d be self-critical. So I’m blessed.
What writers have inspired you?
I am a huge fan of an Irish writer, Molly Keane. I read and reread all her work. I love comedic writers too, from Douglas Adams to PG Wodehouse.
How important is a sense of place in your writing?
Very important. Mentally, I have to work out where my characters are very early on. It’s like the place is almost another character.
Do you spend a lot of time researching your novels?
I read a lot and do on-line research, but don’t do so much out-and-out research anymore. Partly because I have two small children and am very busy, but also because I find my novels are more and more about people and relationships, and that’s research into the human condition, which can be done anywhere! I love the airport. Watching people flying off, wondering where they’re going and what’s been happening to them…
Do your characters ever surprise you?
All the time. When I wanted to write first, I used to interview every novelist I could and they all said the same thing: that the story and the characters take on a life of their own. I thought they were all bonkers but it turns out, they were right. You want your character to do something by the end of the novel, and when you reach that point, they refuse to do it.
How much of your life and the people around you do you put into your books?
Who you are goes into your writing because you are the author but I honestly don’t put people I know or my own life into my novels. It wouldn’t work, in my opinion. I want to create a character and a situation and if I use an existing one - character or situation – then I’d be tied by the reality of that person or situation. I am astonished by writers who do put real people into books.
How did it feel when you saw your book in print for the first time? Incredible. Up until that point, it felt as if it was just me and something I’d worked on on my dining room table but suddenly, I had this actual book in my hand with my name on the cover.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing now?
I suppose I could still be a journalist, which was a great job but could be stressful. In my fantasy other world, I’d have retrained and by a psychologist.
What has been your ‘Once in a Lifetime’ opportunity?
Having my sons with my partner. Nothing else comes close.
You have achieved so much, what is your next goal?
I’m very involved in two charities: UNICEF Ireland - I work as one of their ambassadors – and Chernobyl Children’s Project International, of which I’m a patron. UNICEF works in more than 150 countries doing incredible work saving children’s lives. It’s an honour to be involved. With them, I’ve visted Rwanda and Mozambique to raise awareness – and funds – for their work, which includes helping children orphaned by HIV. UNICEF do so much work, I could write a thousand words here describing it. Visit their website to see what they do. CCPI is an Irish charity set up by Adi Roche in 1991 to improve the quality of life of thousands of children affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. To date, they’ve delivered over 76 million euro’s worth of aid to children in the heart of the Chernobyl Zone. Currently, we’re trying to raise funds to operate on children with ‘Chernobyl Heart’, a birth defect that will kill them unless they can have surgery. 1,000 euro saves a child’s live. I want to do everything I can for these charities. No child should have to live in fear, hunger, pain. We can all help and I want to do my bit.
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Top Customer Reviews
This book is an exception, however. I was hopeful given Marion Keyes' cover-quote saying that this is one of Kelly's best with wonderful characters. Not. Yes, Ingrid - the most prominent character, wife of Kenny's magnate David and host of a prime-time TV political talk-show - is likeable and interesting, but she's surrounded by others who really didn't appeal at all. For once, also, the various characters' stories didn't gel for me, and the book's structure did not hang together.
Characters such as Kitty, Dara, Lizzie and others were irritating and unsympathetic. David, Ingrid's husband, was too much of a cypher in the beginning for me to form any liking for him, and I'm left wondering what Ingrid ever saw in him. As for Star Bluestone, the proclaimed lodestone of the book, I could have done without her and her flaky second-sight mumbo-jumbo.
Sorry, Cathy Kelly, but this book was considerably below what I'm used to from you and will be finding its way to the nearest second-hand bookshop.
With "Once in a lifetime" Cathy Kelly has taken the step from youngish, fun and bubbly to maturity and wisdom. I have always found that the Irish, in all kinds of art, have a special kind of magic, partly based on centuries of rich tradition, partly simply a trait in the Irish themselves. Whatever, it's there and it's special. And Cathy Kelly has got it in buckets.
In this book her storytelling is reaching deep into people's souls and far under the surface of life.
"Once in a Lifetime" is the story about TV presentator Ingrid, her husband David, owner of old distinguished department store Kenny's, and their two children Molly and Ethan. It's about Star Bluestone, the latest of the Bluestone women who for centuries have possessed magic abilities of various kinds. Star is perhaps the most fascinating character in the book. Living alone in the beautiful Bluestone cottage, surrounded by her dogs, orchids, interesting collections from her various travels and not the least her production of the beautiful embroidered Bluestone tapestries.There is Charlie, working at Kenny's cosmetic department and her family - and Natalie, searching desperately for knowledge about her long dead birth mother. And many, many more.
Over each chapter in the book there is a headline, a simple word of wisdom.Read more ›
This has put me off buying anymore Cathy Kelly unless she goes back to het usual style of writing.
It did take me around two months to plough though it, but that was more to do with me recently becoming a mother-of-two than anything to do with the book. It's OK, however in all honesty, I couldn't describe it as "unputdownable."
The Ingrid/David storyline was strong and the characters believable, although I thought the threat to Kenny's store and the fight to save it was somewhat underplayed. And I found the Natalie/Dara and Charlie/Kitty characters rather one-dimensional and the storylines about their mother-daughter relationships weak. Nevertheless, it hopefully promises a return to form by the queen of Irish chick-lit.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A slow start for me first few chapter's wasn't gripping me like her first book I read home coming,but I carried on reading it them so glad I did I started enjoying it,I likes all... Read morePublished 11 months ago by milly mouse
What a rich book. Lots of characters each with their own story. A jewel on a rainy day for anyone. Liz.Published 11 months ago by liz