Monica McInerney on family, love and memories

In our family, the best novels have a second life in our holiday house. There, on the ageing IKEA bookcases sit our favourites. If anyone finishes a good read and they feel it should be shared around with the rest of the family, it is taken to the house on the river for others to discover its pleasures.

And that has always been the fate of any Monica McInerney book. Her warm family sagas have always made the journey from family member to family member – from mother to daughter to granddaughter and then returned to the bookshelves for visitors to enjoy.

Perhaps it’s because McInerney, Australian-born, but now living in Ireland, knows how to write about families. Her fictional families are complex, yet loving, complicated, yet generous.

Her latest novel, The Trip of a Lifetime, is classic McInerney. In it, she revisits one of her most popular families, the Quinlans, and particularly the family matriarch, Lola. Essentially, this latest story is that of Lola as she travels back to her homeland of Ireland to revisit and then bury the secrets of her past.

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McInerney's latest novel revisits one of her most popular families, the Quinlans

Lola was first featured in one of McInerney’s earliest books, The Alphabet Sisters, as well as Lola’s Secret a couple of years ago.

“Lola is such an interesting person – I have always loved writing about her,” says McInerney, who has been touring in Australia to promote the book. “This time I wanted to examine her back story and explore how she became the character she is.”

"The Trip of a Lifetime was a joy to write,” she adds. “It’s filled with the subjects and themes I love to explore in my novels – the ties and tensions of family life, the impact of secrets past and present.”

In the novel, McInerney also explores the subject of grief, with the other main character, Bett, still grieving after the death of her sister, Anna, which occurred at the end of The Alphabet Sisters.

As she says, grief doesn’t go away. “I wanted to tackle what grief looks like years later,” she says. “It is often not discussed what grief feels like after the first pain has worn off.”

The novel criss-crosses between Ireland and the Quinlans’ home town of the Clare Valley, coincidentally McInerney’s own home town. She says she always loves returning to the Clare in her books, and her love of the people in the valley shines through the pages.

And, no, McInerney is not finished with the Quinlan family yet. She hints that there may be a few stories left to tell. During this book tour, she’s enjoyed hearing from her readers where their interests lie.

“A lot of people like the character of Geraldine, Lola’s daughter-in-law, and want to know her back story,” says McInerney. “There might be a book there.”

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Image credit: Ashley Miller