This Year It Will Be Different is from the short story collection of the same name by Maeve Binchy. I listened to an audiobook version of this story, read by Kate Binchy. (Book cover above from Goodreads)
Summary (my own)
A middle-aged woman, Ethel, is not looking forward to Christmas. She’s reached a point where Christmas seems like too much hard work because her family has come to expect her to do everything for them (as well as go out to work), without offering to help. But when her family realise that something’s amiss, they promise “this year it will be different”…
If she saw one more picture of a 47 year old woman, smiling at her out of magazine, with the body of an 18 year old, gleaming skin, 56 even teeth and shining hair, Ethel was going to go after her with a carving knife.
I’ve not read (or listened) to any Maeve Binchy before. These types of stories are not the usual type I’m drawn to, but I thought it would be interesting to give one of these Christmas stories a go.
There is so much involved with preparing the “perfect” family Christmas and if the work load falls only to one person, it’s no wonder that they become fatigued just thinking about it. Listening to the story, I really felt for Ethel. Her family has a selfish streak, which she accepts responsibility for, which I think is sad – and is probably one of the reasons she finds herself in this state of apathy. After all, people don’t often know there is a problem unless they are told or made to taken responsibility for it.
When the family make their promise of, “this year it will be different”, on noticing that Ethel’s not her usual self, their solution was not one I expected. And, it highlights the undercurrent of expectation that moves through their house.
The story was a short listen, at just under twenty minutes, but in that time, we are given a clear and crisp glimpse into Ethel’s character, as well as the personalities of the other family members. It’s not a cheery Christmas story, but with the weight of expectation associated with this time of year, I think for some it is a realistic one.