Wednesday, April 1, 2009

March Catch Up - lots of Maeve Binchy and a little Joanna Trollope

I know I'm sadly ignoring this blog. I haven't stopped reading, I've just been devoting my time to fixing up my other blogs and now I need to re-focus my attention here.

At the begining of March I went back on a Maeve Binchy kick. It all started with This Year it Will be Different, a collection of short stories that Jonathan picked up for me while in England. He knows that I adore Maeve Binchy's writing and was pretty sure that I didn't have this one on my shelf. He was right. What I didn't know while diving into it was that these short stories all centred around Christmastime. You know what? It didn't matter. They were still great. I once read that sitting down with a Maeve Binchy book is like sitting down with a pot of tea and your best friend for a good chat (& gossip). So true. You get to peek into these people's lives a little. You don't know the whole story, (and especially in these short stories you don't know how everything turns out), they are just snippets. It amazes me how she can take a story and in just a few short pages turn it completely around. Her books just come to life so readily. They are wonderful.
Next I opened (or re-opened) The Copper Beech. This was another that Jonathan picked up in England for me, not knowing that not only did I have it, but it is my favorite of hers. (I think the different cover threw him off). This one is distinctive of Binchy's style. She combines her gift for telling short stories into a novel format. It all centres around the same village in rural Ireland a time ago. Each chapter (or section) focusses on one character, but what is interesting is how these characters are viewed by the others when their turn comes around. I find this story absolutely engaging and delightful.
Jump back a bit and I re-opened Firefly Summer. This was a much earlier book of hers. Although it is still Binchy, the style differs somewhat. It's a longer more concentrated novel. It still has her charm, and it still takes me in a direction I wasn't expecting.
This was completely contrasted with Binchy's newest novel Heart and Soul. If you ever want to see how a writer develops do just that, go from one of their early works to something brand new. What was so lovely and surprising was the reprise of a cast of characters I had thought we'd not see again. I had supposed that Quentins would be the last of these Dubliners that keep bumping into each others lives. So going through this book was a little like old home week. Of course not all of the characters were ones we already knew, most of them were new, but had some relationships with others from other stories. (Evening Class, Tara Road, Scarlett Feather, Night of Rain and Stars and Quentins). I'm just glad that she is still writing. I read once that she had decided to stop, but I guess the stories won't leave her alone :o)

And non-Binchy: Friday Nights by Joanna Trollope
Joanna Trollope is one of those authors I discovered a few years ago, read all that she had put out and then left. I was rifling through the shelves at the library and saw this one which I was pretty sure I hadn't read yet. I was right. It's only about a year old. Trollope is an English writer with this book centring on a group of women in London. They have an unlikely friendship, meeting on Friday nights. The cast of women range from a young, single wandering type to an older woman in the retirement stage of life (she's the glue holding them together). The story weaves in and out of these lives quite nicely. A good little book.

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