Posted on March 10, 2023
W hen dining with Lore Segal, it might be wise to watch your words. The Austrian-born writer subscribes to Nora Ephron’s adage that everything is copy. That’s especially true for her encounters with her circle of close female friends, which over the years have been rendered into fiction via her Ladies Lunch series.
The stories, most originally published in The New Yorker, are wry appraisals on ageing and how this shifts our relationships.
Mostly they feature a version of Segal, today a sprightly 94-year-old living on the Upper West Side, more than eight decades after she fled to Britain on the Kindertransport. These, plus three other essays, form part of a Ladies Lunch collection published in the UK this month.
They are built on a real lunch, one that has been meeting for the last 20 years. “These stories come from picking up on some theme or story or something that has happened,” explains Segal, who is well known for her novels and short stories in the US and has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. “The characters are real, but the characters’ names are not [those of] my real friends.”
Segal arrived in New York in 1951, having spent the war in a series of foster homes, studying her eccentric English hosts (some Jews, others Christians keen to convert her) with the same curiosity a botanist might have for exotic plants. Remarkably, she was reunited with her parents early in the war, after English authorities helped them secure domestic servant visas.