The Copper Beech (by Maeve Binchy)

I do like Maeve Binchy's novels. I only started reading them about eleven years ago, and while I quite liked them then, I'm enjoying them considerably more on re-reading.

I first read 'The Copper Beech' about ten years ago, and recently read it again. It's basically a series of interwoven character studies, in the form of a saga style novel. Each lengthy chapter tells different parts of a story of a small town community in Ireland, in the middle and late twentieth century. The book opens by introducing us to Father Gunn, a Catholic priest in Shancarrig.

We also read the description of a large beech tree, which gives shade in the grounds of a primary school. The school is being honoured with a visit from the Bishop, and we meet several characters from the town as they prepare for the visit, including some mischievous children.

There are then several sections to the book, each written from the perspective of one of the people in the town. They usually start in the person's childhood, showing their upbringing and introducing some of their friends. There's a section about the village school teacher, a section about the young doctor, and many more.

There are ongoing threads running through the book, gradually giving more clues and insights as we wonder who marries whom? Will Maura get her dream of a house of her own? What happens in Leo's family that makes her draw back from the rest of the community?

It's very well written, with excellent characterisations, and most of the questions do get answered by the end. Perhaps it's a bit slow-moving at times, and certainly there's no great excitement or intrigue. But for someone like me who enjoys reading about people, I found this a very enjoyable book.

Recommended. First published in 1992 and still in print in both the UK and USA.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 6th December 2008

1 comment:

Laura Essendine said...

Maeve Binchy is wonderful and she makes her writing seem so effortless. I love the way she takes so many characters and binds their stories together into one book. Tara Road is possibly my favourite.

I see from your profile that your reading list is similar to mine. Have you tried Judith Lennox? Her books are excellent, particularly her earlier ones. Start with Footprints In The Sand set during WWII or The Winter House.


Laura Essendine
Author – The Accidental Guru
The Books Limited Blog