Whitethorn Woods by Maeve Binchy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Maeve Binchy books are always to be like sitting down for a gossip and a cup of tea with an old friend. Her words are so charming and funny, her characters so endearing, I just love them. As she got older, she was less able to cope with her trademark huge stories and multiple characters and so the books got smaller and more separated. She once said of a book that she organized it by month so she could keep track of it.
This is one of her later books, her second last I believe, and while it could not be said she was at the height of her power in terms of form, in content the book is classic Binchy and I really enjoyed it, as I enjoyed them all.
The book starts off with a Catholic priest:
“Not long ago he had been in the junior school at St Ita’s and asked if any of the pupils wanted to become nuns when they grew up. Not an unreasonable question to ask little girls in a Catholic school. They had been mystified. No one seemed to know what he meant. Then one of them got it. ‘You mean like the movie Sister Act?’”
The world has changed, and change is afoot still as plans are being drafted to build a road through town that would also wipe out the local wishing well, which is rumoured to have magical powers.
Binchy weaves the stories of her characters with ease, dragging you in from word one. She maintains her traditional ugly ducking attitude; she once said she believes an ugly duckling doesn’t have to turn in to the swan, and can grow up and be happy and have a nice life, thank you very much, as evidenced by the classic paragraph:
“For a while I thought that if I tried harder, dressed better, got thinner, developed more sparkle, he would grow to love me. But oddly it was my friend Malka who convinced me that this was not really the way it worked. Otherwise all thin, groomed, sparkly people would be very happy and we all knew – because we saw them all round us – that most of them were totally miserable.”
One thing that struck me reading this was why are none of her characters gay? Someone comes close here, but I don’t remember ever reading of one that was. I know she was okay with it, I met her.
Petty quibbles aside, this book, like her others, reads itself, and you’ll be finished before you know it. Enjoy.
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