“The Copper Beech” is the ninth Maeve Binchy book I’ve read so far. And now it shares the number one place with “The Glass Lake” on the list of my favourites.
Maeve Binchy writes about life in a way that makes you believe in miracles again. Not in the once-in-a-lifetime kind of miracles that happen mostly in movies, but in those simple, everyday coincidences and turns of events that transform the life of a person or a family into a wonderful journey.
At first glance, “The Copper Beech” is more a collection of short stories than a novel, each chapter telling a reader the life story of one of the characters. But as the narration progresses, there gradually emerges a panorama of a small Irish town, with joys and sorrows of its inhabitants, and with carefully guarded secrets.
In small towns like Shancarrig, everyone knows everything about their neighbours. But is it really so? Maeve Binchy masterfully shows how often people are prejudiced and short-sighted in their perception of others when the opinion is based solely on a person’s social standing and commonly accepted paths that person can take in life.
Why isn’t a pretty, intelligent school teacher Madeline Ross married? Is it only because of the lack of candidates in a town like Shancarrig? Why has the daughter of a “big town” suddenly become subdued and stopped spending time with her friends? Why is the son of a local seamstress more often seen with letters and flowers but not girls?
To many, answers to these questions would seem obvious. In a way, it’s as if the small-town attitude from the previous century’s 50s-60s has transformed into today’s I-know-it-all position. But Maeve Binchy will surprise you, and that’s a part of her talent’s secret. She will make you cry and smile. She will make your heart flutter in the anticipation of a happy ending for her characters. Still, yet another facet of her genius is that not everyone in her stories runs blissfully into a sunset.
My next read by Maeve Binchy is “Scarlet Feather”. Some of its characters have appeared in the books I’ve read, so I’m even more excited to dive in.