I have read Kane and Abel and Only Time Will Tell written by Jeffrey Archer, and I absolutely loved those books. I came across a copy of collected short stories by Archer, and I had to buy it. The Luncheon is a part of A Quiver Full of Arrows collection of short stories.
The premise of The Luncheon is straightforward. The narrator is an author; he speaks on the phone with a wife of a Hollywood producer who loved his novel. During this conversation, the lady praises his work and tells him that next time she is in London, she will take him to lunch. The author then says that he will take her to lunch when she comes to London. The narrator doesn’t think much about this statement until she calls him to inform him that she is indeed coming to London and would like to meet him for lunch. She makes a reservation at a fancy restaurant; the narrator agrees to it reluctantly because he is aware that the place isn’t affordable for him.
The story begins at an event where a woman greets the narrator with familiarity and enthusiasm. It takes him a while to remember who she is, and then the story jumps back to the lunch they had together years ago. The lady, Susan, makes a reservation at a fancy restaurant. From the beginning, it worries the writer that the place is too expensive. You feel bad for the writer because you can relate to the situation, yet the way it is written is funny. He gets excited when Susan says that she usually has a light lunch, but ends up ordering multiple items. This trend continues throughout their lunch, where she orders wines, then dessert, then coffee. All the while, he makes excuses for why he doesn’t want anything.
The conversations between them are mostly casual and gossips without actually talking about the novel. The reason they had a lunch plan, to begin with, was to discuss the novel. The writer is constantly conscious of the items ordered, also, the fact that the prices weren’t written on the menu. As Susan orders more than lunch, you can start to feel the writer’s nervousness growing. The climax of the story is comical and slightly anti-climactic. Susan casually informs him that she has divorced her producer husband and her new husband is the owner of the restaurant where they had lunch. You can completely sympathize with the writer’s dilemma in the story.
The Luncheon is a nice short story. The writing and narration are good-paced and well-executed. The situation and characters seem very relatable and realistic, especially the way they have been described. It is a nice little funny short story that I read in one sitting. I enjoyed it.
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