Is it possible to tell the story of a generation and a city through the history of a restaurant?
Ella Brady thinks so. She wants to film a documentary about Quentins that will capture the spirit of Dublin from the 1970s to the present day. And Quentins has a thousand stories to tell: tales of love, of betrayal, of revenge; of times when it looked ready for success and times when it seemed as if it must close in failure. But as Ella uncovers more of what has gone on at Quentins, she begins to wonder whether some secrets should be kept that way...
"This small novella speaks of the most common of men, the most marginal of lives, and yet becomes an echo and a reflection of the most important of all books."-La Stampa"De Luca's prose is rich, succulent, full of life: one can almost taste it as a ripe fruit in the mouth. The tale captures its readers, and immerses them in a magical atmosphere."- L'Espresso"The language of De Luca's narrator is extraordinary, capable of recounting the most cruel tragedies, the most complicated thoughts, the most profound feelings, using the simplest of our daily expressions, yet avoiding easy sentimentalism."-L'Unita'"Once the book is closed, the indelible impression is that one has just listened to a sacred hymn…And in the end, one has attained heaven."-La Repubblica -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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April 20, 2004
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Excerpt from Quentins by Maeve Binchy
When Ella Brady was six she went to Quentins. It was the first time anyone had called her Madam. A woman in a black dress with a lace collar had led them to the table. She had settled Ella's parents in and then held out a chair for the six-year-old.
"You might like to sit here, Madam, it will give you a full view of everything," she said. Ella was delighted and well able to deal with the situation.
"Thank you, I'd like that," she said graciously. "You see, it's my very first time here." This was in case anyone might mistake her for a regular diner.
Her mother and father probably were looking at her dotingly, as they always did. That's what all the childhood pictures showed, anyway . . . complete adoration. She remembered her mother telling her that she was the best girl in the world, and her father saying it was a great pity he had to go off to the office every day, otherwise he would stay at home with the best girl.
Once Ella asked why she didn't have sisters and brothers like everyone else seemed to. Her mother said that God had sent only one to this family, but weren't they lucky that it was such a wonderful one. Years later, Ella learned of the many miscarriages and false hopes. But at the time the explanation satisfied her completely, and it did mean that there was no one she had to share her toys or her parents with and that had to be good. They took her to the zoo and introduced her to the animals, they brought her to the circus whenever it came to town, they even went for a weekend to London and took her picture outside Buckingham Palace. But somehow nothing was ever as important as that first visit to a grown-up restaurant, where she had been called Madam and given a seat with a good view.
The Bradys lived on Tara Road, which they had bought years earlier, before house prices started to rocket. It was a tall house with a big back garden where Ella could invite her friends from school. The house had been divided into apartments when the Bradys bought it. So there was a bathroom and kitchenette on every floor. They had restored most of it to make it a family home, but Ella's friends were very envious that she had what was like a little world of her own. It was a peaceful, orderly life. Her father, Tim, had a twenty-two-minute walk to the office every day, and twenty-nine minutes back on the return journey, because he paused to have a half-pint of beer and read the evening paper.