Chapter One of The Exiles at Home by Hilary McKay
Novel Excerpt (1993)
Sisters Ruth, Naomi, Rachel and Phoebe have a profitable Christmas. Then school starts again and Ruth, who must stay at home ill, takes on a very generous commitment.
This is my favourite book of the Exiles trilogy. Perhaps the greatest strength of this chapter is the introduction of the main plotline, rather than Christmas itself; all the same it captures the atmosphere of a family Christmas, in many ways typical, and in many ways unique to the eccentricities of the Conroy family. Despite these four sisters not being hugely comparable to Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, there is something the two families have in common at Christmas: charity, here combined with McKay's penchant for disorganisation and alarm.
' "You should post them up the chimney," Rachel told her, as Phoebe began to add the customary ingratiating row of kisses across the bottom of the page, but Phoebe preferred to leave her letters lying about where they could be discovered by her relations.'
Hilary McKay, The Exiles at Home (Hodder Children's Books, 2001), p.7.