This Year It Will Be Different, By Maeve Binchy

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The Independent Culture

If you have never sampled Binchy, this volume of short stories is a good introduction to the easy-going charms of Ireland's most practised storyteller. Set around the Christmas holidays, these neatly plotted tales of festive fall-out offer the private miseries of jilted brides, erring husbands and demanding children.

While predictable on the the surface, Binchy's stories conceal a prick of spite. In the title story, a middle-aged mother, lit up by "hot" whiskeys, refuses to stuff the turkey; in "The Civilised Christmas", an insecure second wife imagines throttling her predecessor. Celtic comfort and spruced-up sentiment by a seasoned hand.

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