Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Whitethorn Woods by Maeve Binchy

If you had a close family member who was dying in the hospital, this would be the book to read at the bedside. Waiting to hear whether your loved ones survived the plane crash? Ditto. This book is so relentlessly cheerful and uplifting I had to stop reading it. Every single person in this book rises above their pain and finds new meaning in the hand God dealt them. At first it’s energizing, then it gradually begins to go all gooey, like a chocolate cake left outside on a hot day. I got about two thirds of the way through and quit.

I used to read Maeve Binchy years ago and I will still assert that her early novels (Light a Penny Candle, Circle of Friends) are really excellent. Yes, they are beach reads, but they are more than that also. They contain subtlety, sly humor, and a great deal of honesty. Binchy’s writing is far superior to many of those with whom she shares the supermarket book rack. I have tried to keep up with her latest offerings, but haven’t really enjoyed them. Whitethorn Woods was better than some, but still far from her best effort.

I also can’t figure out why this is marketed as a novel. It’s really a collection of connected short stories that feature the current and former residents of a small town in Ireland. Characters pop up in each other’s stories, but otherwise I found little continuity and no narrative arc. This is a comfort read, best dipped into in times of stress and otherwise ignored.

(Book 30 2008)


heather (errantdreams) said...

Sounds like it would be best in small doses! Also much like gooey chocolate cake...

Doreen Orion said...

I used to read her years ago, too. Don't remember why I stopped, but I guess I won't be starting, again!

Susan said...

I love Maeve Binchy, but I agree - this one was DEFINITELY not her best. Both of the novels you mentioned (Circle of Friends and Light A Penny Candle) are favorites of mine.

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