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on 3 October 2004
Although slow to begin with, this was easy enough to read, but did fall into that category of "a bit of a waste of reading time", unless you had a particular reason for reading it. The basic idea (the story of three sisters from a small town in South Australia who all end up back in that town together as adults after years of avoiding one another, and rediscover that closeness) and the setting appealed, but the story itself is very simplistic to the point that it makes you cringe at times. And the book is not particularly "true to label" - as it ultimately deals with the death of a young mother from cancer, it turns into something that seems at odds with its brief and promise.
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Anna , Bett and Carrie are " The Alphabet Sisters " an Australian singing trio who had been coached by their grandmother ,Lola, since they were "knee high to grasshoppers" but disbanded when Bett and the other two fell out. Fast forward a few years and Carrie , the youngest one, steals Bett's fiancé causing the "proverbial" to hit the fan and Bett seeks solace thousands of miles away in the UK. Then three years later Lola decided that she'd like the family to unite again and commanded them all to get together for her eightieth birthday celebration. The story continues with plenty of side lines and "skeletons in cupboards" revealing themselves making a pleasant if undemanding story - not a literary masterpiece but definitely worth reading.
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on 28 March 2004
Known in childhood as the singing trio 'The Alphabet Sisters' haven't spoken for three years and are all reunited at the request of their Irish-born eccentric grandmother, Lola, for her 80th birthday party. Lola tricks them into staging an amateur production of a musical comedy she has written, 'Many Happy Returns'.
It is the three sisters deep relationship with Lola, and not their mother, that attracts the reader, as is the perceptively poignant bond created between Anna's seven year old daughter, Ellen, and her 'Really-Great-Gran'.
Lola is the ambitious character, priding herself on having cultivated the independent spirits of her granddaughters. Although we are enticed into the lives of the adult sisters, our attention is always more prominent with their grandmother who is ever wise, eccentric, compassionate, generous and doting. She is the overwhelming link between each and every character, be it the family, the local butcher, the motel guests or the pet sheep Bumper Baa.
Interesting bobs of information on the local tourist attractions of the Clare Valley region are divulged and through Lola; McInerney inserts token Irish witticisms and sayings. One of these gems of wisdom is Lola's echoing lament 'face your fears and tell the truth' to her granddaughters. By being true to themselves they can be true to each other. This sentiment is reinforced time and time again.
Genuinely warm and imaginative with an unforgettable cast of quirky characters, this epic family saga, set in the Clare Valley of Southern Oz, brings the idiosyncrasies of small-town Australia, sibling-rivalry, plus the pain and pleasure of new and old loves brilliantly to life. It bursts with humour, honesty, drama and local colour. The roll of romance is also neatly entwined into the narrative and translates sincerely without appearing mawkish or contrived.
The end result is a wholesomely gentle and beautifully observed tale of a close-knit family whose interweaving lives, have been torn apart and then mended in their strength of forgiveness and truth to an eventual move beyond grief. It'll have you in stitches. It'll reduce you to tears. It may even make you appreciate your own sisters, (of which I have two), that little bit more.
McInerney has drawn comparisons to our own mistress of storytelling, Maeve Binchy, yet her voice is at once fresh and original, upbeat and tender in tackling a wealth of emotional and realistic subject matter. Her style is resonating and rich in delivery that succeeds beyond most current contemporary womens' fiction with equally strong and arresting female characters.
Readers who enjoyed the 'Big Stone Gap', 'Big Cherry Holler' and 'Milk Glass Moon' series from Adrianna Trigiani will adore this book.
A 'Happy Return' would be the future 'A to Z' of the wonderful and quirky Quinlan sisters as mothers, then grandmothers themselves, where more 'Divine Secrets of the Alphabet Sisterhood' could be revealed, relished and remembered!
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on 4 November 2012
This is the second book by Monioca Mcinerney that I have read and will definately buy more from this author. Without telling you the story, it, as the title suggests,is about three sisters who will reunite after some years for their grandmother's birthday At first none of them want to do anything together, but with a bit of persuasion end up reuniting and making the rest of the family happy. Definately a good read involving you throughout the book.
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on 3 April 2016
I couldn't put it down. Every available emotion was used during the course of reading this book. The Quinlan family their trials and tribulations their passions and pride are all covered in this fabulous read. Grandmother Lola is a dream and a scream. This story begins with Lola insisting they put all squabbles aside for her 80th birthday. The sisters three, Anne, Bette and Caroline haven't as much as phoned each other for three years. Now they need to clear the air, the trouble has to stop, be forgiven, and resolved. (exactly where Lola wanted) But can they do it?
This skilfully written story leaves nothing to chance it is full to the brim with action laughter and sadness. I recommend it wholeheartedly. I read it in three days, it was impossible to put down. Monica showcases her skill by drawing you in from the start, putting you in the room .
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on 15 September 2013
As always I lapped up Monica's book. I have read them all and have found them variable, rarely though does one fail to deliver. This author's books are always a treat like sitting down to a great piece of cake or delicious box of chocolates and I can rarely wait to sit down to finish them. To begin with I was riveted with AS and was hoping for some gripping romances and exciting stories to take place. They did not though and the romance lines kind of petered out. I also found the ending very protracted and think the sister's cancer could either have been turned into some other illness or shortened. She was very young for cancer and although I love the realism in Monica's books, I read to be uplifted and tantalised and found the length and detail of the illness a bit depressing. The thumbs up go to the quality of dialogue and writing which so many wannabee writers fail on and are done so admirably well with Monica. The writings is faultless and beginner romance writers could learn heaps from her. I would have given a 2 and a half but have to give a three for quality.
Overall a nice read but not so thrilling as some of her others. I am currently reading Family Baggage so hope to review on that.
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on 26 October 2011
The first part of the story we get to know the sisters and where they are in their lives right now. Bett, the middle sister, is living in London and working in the press office for a record producer. Anna, the eldest, is living in Sydney with daughter Ellen while husband Glenn works away. Anna is a voice-over artist. Carrie is still living in Clare, working with their parents at the family owned Valley View Motel. We get to know that things aren't all as they appear on the surface for each sister. Lola is the one who has kept in touch with them all and is scheming on how to end the feud and bring them all back together again. We spend time with each sister to the build-up of Lola's 80th birthday party.

There are no explosions when the sisters first meet again. Everything is polite but distanced and they are treading on egg shells around each other. Each sister pretends everything is fine in their lives. Lola tries to bring everything to a head so there can be a resolution with no result. In fact, Lola schemes quite a lot ... What follows is a journey the sisters take in coming to terms with the roles they've played in the family and their jealousies of each other amidst the backdrop of the cast of characters that populate the community of Clare.

The test the sisters' face is full of sorrow and pain. This is the one part in the story where sadness pulls you, the reader, into the abyss too. We've journeyed so far with the Quinlan sisters - emotionally and psychologically - that we feel so involved and can't help but feel a part of it. Even though laughter is something we end our journey on, it is tainted with that sadness laying underneath.

The lead characters in the story are well-rounded and well-developed. My favourite has to be Grandmother Lola. She is such a fabulous character ... eccentric, unconventional and a fount of wisdom. She is the lynch pin that makes everyone face their fears and learn to live with them. She plays the `devils advocate' and puts a positive spin on things often diffusing situations. She really is the matriarch! Whereas Geraldine (the girls mother and Lola's daughter-in-law) is brisk and practical with very little fuss, having everything ordered and precise. I just know there is something from her own childhood that makes it hard for her to engage her emotions! We don't find out much about Geraldine other than her relationship with her husband, Jim, has made the girls feel as if they have been excluded from that affection and that Geraldine and Lola don't really get on but wear their `masks' to cover how they feel about each other. Both women do have their vulnerable sides that we get to glimpse. There are of course the sisters' partners/husbands but to me, this story is about the three sisters finding their way back to not only each other but themselves too.

My favourite part of the story has to be the play that Lola scripted and which the community become involved in. There are so many emotions involved during the rehearsals and on the night of the play itself. A close second is when something from Bett's past walks into her present. Very cleverly plotted J

I loved how the author has something major happening to one of the characters but in the background is the steady thrum of the other characters lives - so while an issue is highlighted, we are still a part of the lives of the characters who populate this world.

I had really enjoyed reading `Those Faraday Girls' and was hoping I wouldn't be disappointed in `The Alphabet Sisters' as it had quite a lot to live up to... It has certainly lived up to my expectations and surpassed them!

I can only agree wholeheartedly with the last paragraph of the synopsis, `The Alphabet Sisters' really is an unforgettable story.
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on 13 April 2009
I listened to the audio CDs of this novel and quite enjoyed it even though I felt like telling the sisters to grow up. Considering their age and life experiences, they seemed a little immature for me. The youngest was one of the most petulant, selfish characters I've come across and I disliked her intensely. The most worthy was given a sad, lingering end - just when life was becoming happy for her. The grandmother's secret past when finally revealed was not so incredible and an opportunity to 'mend fences' with long-lost family was not taken up. The town locals were painted as unfeeling, gossiping hicks - not really what country people are like. Altogether - some disappointment but the descriptions of Australia scenery was good.
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on 8 March 2012
I really enjoyed this book even though I had a shock towards the end and had a good cry. I love the way that this author swops between countries. This is the 3rd book of Monicas that I have read and enjoyed.
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VINE VOICEon 9 March 2010
This is the story of three women: sisters who have not spoken to each other for three years, and are drawn back together to the family business, a motel in Australia to celebrate their grandmother's eightieth birthday.

Carrie is the youngest sister, having fallen out with Bett, the middle sister because she married Bett's fiancé. Anna, the eldest was stuck between helping and supporting Carrie and ended up falling out with her as well as Bett, when some home truths were told about her own relationship with her perfect husband Glenn. These three main characters on the return to the motel in Australia at the behest of their grandmother start very slowly to form a bond that had long since been lost.

Monica McInerney is very good at writing about groups of women and they way they interact with each other and less supporting characters and create a compelling story that you have to keep reading to find out what happens. However, for me her creation of Lola, as the grandmother who spends her time interfering in other people's business, is one of her most irritating characters. There is just something about the way she is portrayed that got under my skin and meant I did not warm to her. I think because of the way she interfered in everyone's lives but also her disregard of what she was doing, blaming the fact that she could get away with it because of her age. Even when the story becomes emotional and Lola is affected, this still did not make me want to warm to her, knowing that she also had many secrets to hide from her own son and grandchildren, especially when she was trying to make them face up to theirs.

In the end for me the three sisters, actually faced up to the secrets they had been carrying for the last 3 years themselves, without much help from Lola. This brought them all together through some difficult times, and through some comical ones, when they have to stage a musical that their grandmother has written. Her reason for bringing them all back together.

McInerney suggests at what has happened as we read in the present, but cleverly takes us back to the past as we relive what has happened with the characters, done well so you do not see the join. But also so that we as readers, can make our conclusions about the characters and the past.

There are only a couple of minor characters, Richard who is staying at the motel, keeping secrets of his own, and also Ellen, Anna's daughter who has to suffer being taunted at school because of a scar that she has acquired. The three girls parents, are something of a non entity, obviously to make it clear to the reader that they were involved so much in their work, that it was left to Lola to raise the children, and they became under her control, something which has continued into adulthood by all accounts.

Do not let my negativity about on character put you off (why would it) and find out for yourself, because as a complete book the story is very good and will satisfy anyone who likes family saga type stores with added bit of 'chick-lit' chucked in for good measure.
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