Whitethorn Woods, by Maeve Binchy

Now I know there are some literary types who look down their noses at Maeve Binchy (of course, they’d look even farther down their noses at the “inspirational romance” category I’ve been reading, so that’s OK). However, I have to say I thoroughly enjoy a good Maeve; she’s always readable, has an unerring eye and ear for human behavior and dialogue, and is witty and insightful. Some of her earlier novels, such as Echoes and Circle of Friends, are enduring favourites of mine.

The really good thing with a Maeve Binchy novel is that you know what you’re getting. No unexpected twists and turns; a straightforward ride through a good story with engaging characters and a heartwarming ending. I rarely miss one of her books.

But … here’s the problem. The last few Maeve Binchies I’ve picked up have not been novels, even though they’ve been packaged to look like novels. Whitethorn Woods, whatever its pleasures (and they are many) is clearly not a novel. It is a collection of loosely linked short stories, the link being a common place (a shrine to St. Anne at a place called Whitethorn Woods). The connections between characters and stories are tenuous, but once I was willing to drop the expectation that I was getting a novel and read them as short stories I thoroughly enjoyed them. They are good, thought-provoking, heartwarming and insightful stories set in modern-day Ireland. But what I would enjoy even more would be a good thick Maeve Binchy novel in the style of Circle of Friends, where I would get attached to a small group of characters in the beginning and follow their fate over a period of months and years, rather than jumping off to get to know new people all the time.

Maeve, tell me you haven’t stopped writing novels! Give me something to look forward to!

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3 Comments

Filed under Fiction -- general

3 responses to “Whitethorn Woods, by Maeve Binchy

  1. Mimi

    Maeve can either be good or bad, and I also don’t like this collection of short story thing she’s been doing.

  2. Jeanne

    God, you people just don’t get her, if you go back to the beginning, characters keep coming back, sometimes it takes a few books, but that’s what makes a country, a country. Ireland is big but not so big as to find unbelievable that people should encounter each other years later in their lives. From Scarlet Feather to Evening Class you encounter people characters that are special and priceless, you get invited into their lives and inpartake in their existence. It almost makes you want to visit Ireland expecting to see them. Maeve has a way with everyday words that takes you to a land far away from home and makes you think you belong and are part of them all. I have all her books and re-read them every few years or so just to refresh. Sure hope she never stops writing.

  3. Jeanne, that comment (“God, you people just don’t get her”) is not only rude, it’s completely inaccurate. I made it clear in the review that I DO understand these are linked short stories; I’m quite familiar with the concept. I also recognize that there’s a difference between linked short stories (with recurring characters) and a novel that follows a single small group of characters over a single plot line. What I think you’re saying is that you like and enjoy her short stories and finding the connections between them, while what I’m saying is that while I like them, I don’t like them as well as I did her earlier novels. Differences in taste do not necessarily mean that a person doesn’t “get it,” just that they like something different.

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