I just finished reading a great tale last night, Heart and Soul, by one of my favorite story tellers, Maeve Binchy. It continued her habit of delighting me. Several years ago I finished all of her novels and kept them to reread and share with friends. I have not seen her name on an unfamiliar book jacket for a couple years, so you can imagine my delight when I was on a potato chip emergency run to the grocery store the other day and saw this new-to-me paperback on the bookshelf. (I know, I get to the chips by a circuitous route).
It was copyrighted in London in 2008 but in New York in 2009, so I am not as behind as I first feared. Honestly, I have been afraid that she was in failing health or had passed on, and here she is, alive and well and writing!
Several generalities are: The stories take place in Ireland, whether small village life whose heart she seems to understand, or the life in Dublin where those villagers gather into neighborhoods and people come and go driven for success and meaning. The tales are character-driven: her stories are always about the people, and the plots are created by whatever choices and meanderings the individuals take. The coordination of her cast of characters meeting each other and influencing the path each other takes, whether for good or ill, is where the real story lies, and sometimes it takes your breath away, the way it seems to fall together. A wonderful joy in her stories is that, after you have come to love someone in a novel, their name may show up in another totally separate work, somehow connected to friends by a letter or visit, and you are so glad to know that they are going on with their lives, that they have grown and changed but are essentially still here in the world with us. Lastly, she always dedicates her books to her husband “my dearest Gordon, with all my love” which I find personally charming.
Some of my favorites are:
Evening Class My all-time favorite
Scarlet Feather in which we meet friends from Heart and Soul again
The glass Lake a haunting tale of growing up in an Irish Catholic village
Circle of Friends so different than the movie version which badly mangled its intent
The Lilac Bus
Quentin’s a dream come to fruition from her other works
The Copper Beech
Nights of Rain and Stars sheer magic
Heart and Soul
Yesterday I had a day off of school and went with daughter Amanda and her visiting friend Hannah (from Florida; friendship from Tennessee) on an outing to the hot springs I wrote about here. The girls soaked and wrapped while I read in front of the stone fireplace. I told you I wanted to go back there and read a good book: well, I did. It was wonderful.
Here is the fireplace:
from the 3rd floor balcony:
Long live Maeve Binchy!
Long live the magic of Ireland!