Re-read June 27, 2022: I just needed a book taking place in a different time and place right now. Though this book starts off in the 1950s and ends around 1971 or so, it still brought me some comfort. Maybe because Binchy really does lay out how hard it was for women in Ireland in that time and place and even mentions a few times how the inhabitants of Shancarring were poor and how many women just had too many children they were just kind of done in. What’s funny is that this book has several abortions being undertaken by some women in this book and I just honestly forget about it. Heck one of the stories ends on someone arranging an abortion for what would have been their grandchild. I still love all of the characters in this one that I did when I first reviewed it. Eddie, Nessa, Leo, and Dr. Jim’s were great. Poor Maddy though. Her ending to me was the saddest. The main reason why I still didn’t give this one 5 stars though is that I really do wish Binchy had given us Niall and Foxy’s POV’s too.
It’s funny, I think I read this one eons ago (back in the mid-2000s) but I never got into it. At least I can say that nothing read as familiar to me when I started this. I thought that the way that Binchy balances all of the characters, and then we get to see them in the end, adults, married, with children was great. I always want to know what happens next in a story, so we get a little of that here.
Binchy divides up the book and focuses on certain characters in the village of Schancarrig. We start off with Father Gunn, then we move to Madeline Ross (known as Maddy) which also introduces Father Barry. We have other adults in this one, Dr. Jims and Nora Kelly but they are in the mix of when the school children are introduced. After them, we move to the children who go to Schancarrig school. First we have Maura, then Eddie, Nessa, and Leo. We also have another character who is not one that went to the school, Richard. He is related to one of the characters we hear about in this story, Niall. We don’t get Niall’s POV in this though.
I have to say that out of everyone I liked Nessa’s and Leo’s stories the most. Probably because Nessa gets to see a different side to her mother’s relationship with her father, and she realizes that it’s better for her to give her strength to someone who needs it/her instead of throwing herself away on someone who doesn’t deserve her.
Leo’s story was heart wrenching. Her family gets twisted upside down and she is forced to keep a secret that haunts her. I did love how the village reprobate Foxy made good and how he was hell-bent on marrying Leo. I thought it was odd though that Binchy didn’t switch Foxy in for Richard’s story. One of the main reason’s why I gave it 4 stars.
Maddy’s story was a hot mess. Dealing with an overbearing mother, she throws her all into being an assistant teacher, and then her friendship with Father Barry who is another mess. Her ending was not happy at all, and I liked how Binchy looped her back in the end.
I really liked the writing in this one. You really have to pay attention to what is going on while reading this since you get hints of thing to come in other people’s stories. Also Binchy does a wonderful job of looping things back. For example, you don’t know what caused Leo to suddenly change how she was personality wise. You just know that other characters remark upon it. Eventually you do find out while reading Leo’s story.
The flow was good too, though some of the individual stories, I was a little bored with like Richard and Eddie. Eddie’s story gets better by the end, but the beginning of his tale was slow. Richard I didn’t like at all, and it was odd that was even included I though except it gave us insights into two other characters, Nessa and a woman we hear mentioned a lot, Mrs. Gloria Darcy.
The setting is Shancarrig in the 1960s. When the book ends we are in 1970 I think or at least 1971. The book focuses on the school (the old stone house) and the tree that the children wrote their initials on as they grew up (the copper beech).
The ending leaves things on a hopeful note for all of the characters except for Richard and Maddy.