Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy isn’t really a seasonal book, though it does start with a New Year’s Eve party. In the book, Scarlet Feather is the name of a catering company run by Tom Feather and Cathy Scarlet. The book talks about the ups and downs of running a catering company in Dublin and all the intricacies of relating to people — clients, family members, and spouses. I think this book is one of Binchy’s best, though she does write quite a lot of really good books. Scarlet Feather is one of a number of novels she has written about present-day Dublin. These novels are not all about the same people, but the characters in this novel show up in other novels as background figures. Similarly the background figures in this novel are slightly familiar if you’ve read others in the set.
Binchy’s earlier works tend to be rather depressing. Circle of Friends is an example of this earlier work. The movie is quite a good adaption of the novel, but of course the lengthy novel contains much more detail. The movie has Minnie Driver in it, so that is reason enough to see it. Of all the early works of Binchy, I thought Circle of Friends actually had a somewhat redemptive ending. Many others (Firefly Summer, Light a Penny Candle, Copper Beech to name a few) were very dark with little light in them. The more recent works, the ones with the community of characters, feel much lighter, more hopeful, less bleak. I’m sure Binchy might be able to tell us why this might be the case. I do not propose a reason, I just observe. This is not to say that (for example) Tara Road or Heart and Soul are all goodness and light — there are conflicts aplenty in the books. But somehow the endings are hopeful despite the pain the characters experience. The community of characters begin with Evening Class (1996) and continue to the present. I’ve not read the one that’s just come out, so I can’t say whether the community continues.
I’d recommend Binchy as an interesting read. Her books are not quite at the brain candy level, but they are not hard work either. I find them enjoyable reads with interesting characters and situations. There are usually some theological issues raised in the books, and a priest or nun show up as characters more often than not. Whitethorn Woods is all about miracles.
I’ve come to the end of the list of 25 books I’ve read more than three times. I’m quite sure I’ll have no problem thinking of something else to write about. We are getting close to the end of the year, so Year-End Lists will probably be my next big theme. Be Warned.