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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Wonderful Story
I just can't leave a Meave Binchy on the shelf in the book shop. I have been dissapointed in the past by some of her offerings and have been enthralled by others. Regardless I will always buy her new one. I did hold off on buying this one as I felt I had outgrown her but no sucked back into to a world of magic and charm. I so enjoyed this book, I read it in a day and...
Published on 22 Aug 2007 by F. Walsh

versus
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars DISJOINTED
So disappointing after being so excited to read yet another novel from the grand dame of writing!
I agree either retire gracefully or write a novel of your expertise.
a maeve Binchy fan for ever..............
[...]
Published on 18 Oct 2006 by S. WHITING


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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Wonderful Story, 22 Aug 2007
This review is from: Whitethorn Woods (Paperback)
I just can't leave a Meave Binchy on the shelf in the book shop. I have been dissapointed in the past by some of her offerings and have been enthralled by others. Regardless I will always buy her new one. I did hold off on buying this one as I felt I had outgrown her but no sucked back into to a world of magic and charm. I so enjoyed this book, I read it in a day and loved every page. A perfect companion for a day on the beach or a night by the fire. A lovely story for the Mistress of Story Telling. Well done Meave. Another sucess.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Binchy is Back!, 4 Aug 2007
By 
Bina Shah (Karachi, Pakistan) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Whitethorn Woods (Hardcover)
Having been sorely disappointed with novels like Scarlet Feather, Quentins, and Nights of Rain and Stars, I wasn't sure whether I wanted to pick this one up when I saw it in the store. But I did, and I'm glad! This book is far better than anything she's written in the last five years. It's very different in tone: sharper, quicker-paced, with some genuine laugh-out-loud moments. She's abandoned the corny sentimentalism that made Nights of Rain and Stars so tedious to get through; she's gone back to wit and sarcasm and just a bit of tongue-in-cheekness, which is extremely satisfying to read.

The stories are about a modern Ireland, which is a relief from the stereotypical characters that she was falling back on (the priest who abandons the order to get married scandalously, the wronged wife, the cheating husband, the spinster schoolteacher) and brings out a new cast that is utterly refreshing. They're loosely connected through the various short stories that make up this novel, which means that you don't bore of them quickly. And nobody's a complete do-gooder (some of which I encountered in the previous novels and all I wanted to do was slap them!).

One more thing which I really liked: her use of the first-person narrator, which I don't believe she's done in any of her novels and very few of her prior short stories. It's such a different perspective and she really does a much better job of handling varied voices and mutliple narratives. I can see that other people who've reviewed this book are uncomfortable with the change, but I find it really cool that she's gotten a bit experimental!

PS She is very nice and answers your mail personally if you send her a letter!
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Kaleidoscope of Granted Wishes, 9 Mar 2007
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Whitethorn Woods (Hardcover)
I think you'll like this book better than any other that Maeve Binchy has written since Tara Road because of its original exploration of deep human emotions.

Before choosing to read Whitethorn Woods, however, please realize that the book is primarily a series of short stories built around the theme of making a wish. In most cases, the stories are tied together more to one another in her version/his version fashion than to the rest of the stories in the book. The ongoing link among all of the stories is that the characters have some connection to St. Ann's Well in Whitethorn Woods, a Christian-themed site of a pagan place of worship. A portion of the short stories also intersect with the theme of whether or not a new road will lead to the demolition of the well and the woods.

In other words, this is not a novel like you are accustomed to reading by Maeve Binchy such as Tara Road, Scarlet Feather, Quentins, and Nights of Rain and Stars.

I mention that point because I know that many readers who love novels aren't nearly as fond of short stories. And those who love short stories usually don't expect to find many connections between the stories in a collection.

There is a benefit, you can read one of these stories while you are in bed and reach a natural stopping point before you nod off. But in some cases, the first story in a sequence may create an irresistible desire to read the next story to see how things turn out. So you may end up being awake for 15-20 minutes longer than you expected.

If you are still interested, let me explain more. St. Ann (if you don't already know) is the mother of the Virgin Mary, who was mother of Jesus. The well in this case has a statue of St. Ann, but the well's connection to the saint is tenuous because St. Ann never set foot anywhere near Ireland. People come to the well to make their wishes for marriage, children, cures of diseases, and success in other endeavors. Because of the ambiguity, Father Flynn is of two minds about encouraging events at the well. Canon Cassidy, his superior, is pleased at any sign of faith.

For years, people have been seeking their dearest wishes for love and happiness at the well. As the stories suggest, more often than not they found fulfillment. Ms. Binchy leaves it somewhat ambiguous as to why these successes occur. From the stories, you can draw your own conclusions: Was it taking action that provided the desired result . . . or was something more spiritual involved? If more spiritual, was it pagan or God-inspired? From a few of the stories, some will argue that this is a pagan force. You'll enjoy making up your own mind.

If the paired short stories were longer, many of them contain enough character and story juice to make a novella, as for example the stories about Neddy and Clare. Many of the characters have slim ties to one another through family connections, having gone to school with one together, or employment. The purpose seems to be to give you a sense of how Ireland has changed in the last two generations. The effect is quite subtle and well done.

The best part of the book comes in meeting some unusual, and very endearing, characters. There's Neddy, who isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer mentally, but who has a heart of gold. You'll be charmed by Vera, the unmarried older woman who takes a singles vacation with a bunch of youngsters. You'll feel comfortable as Maureen (who becomes Malka) embraces another culture and gains a life-long friendship. You'll love the energy and positivism of Bar (Barbara) as she builds a weekend out of nothing. Can a taxi driver play cupid? You'll have to ask the charming Hugo. The best qualities of a good mom shine through in Pearl. Some people care about making the lives of other grand -- you'll love Poppy and Caroline for that quality.

It's not all sweetness and light. There are also some scoundrels here that you'll enjoy hissing, mostly at lusting men and grasping women. Above those stereotypes, the carefully drawn stories of Becca and Gabrielle will stay with you for a long time after you put this book down. Nasty Dr. Dermot is also a strong and original character. Helen's tale will sear you with a deep emotional brand.

If you are tempted to stop mid-way through, don't. The book gets better as more threads gently tug at one another in the last third of the work.

Ms. Binchy is very good at putting her characters into awkward situations and taking them in surprising new directions. That keeps the book fresh, interesting, and rewarding.

What's the weakness of the book? If you are like me, you'll crave a little more connection across the stories. They are flung a little too broadly for the whole collection to be totally satisfying. For example, I think a whole book about Neddy and Clare would have been more appealing. See what you think.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Feel-good with a dark twist, 5 Jan 2007
This review is from: Whitethorn Woods (Hardcover)
I only recently picked up this book that was lying forgotten in my bookcase, and didn't really believe I'd enjoy it all that much. I was so wrong! I've not read much of Binchy's work but after reading this I'm going to go out and collect a few more.

The book is written almost as a debate with each chapter being written from two characters' perspectives, in turn. We get to re-visit several of the main characters and get references to the fates of the others mentioned previously. Although not all of the narratives are explicitly joined together, there is enough mentioned in passing for the reader to work out the gaps. I really liked the way Binchy develops the community of Rossmore and the way she alludes to the characters receiving their just desserts.

Overall it's a lovely heartwarming tale that feels very real and the snippets of dark humour will make you chuckle out loud. 10/10.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maeve Binchy is back!!!!, 25 Aug 2006
By 
Mrs. M. A. Lay "shelleys-shopping" (Peterborough , uk) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Whitethorn Woods (Hardcover)
Thank goodness....After 2 rather unmaeve publications she has written a ab fab novel again....Having been a fan throughout all her novels i was rather sceptical after nights of rain and stars...But this is a must have read for any die hard Maeve Binchy fan, you will love it, cry a little and laugh a lot to...I couldnt put it down and read in 2 days....excellent writing by now again my favourite author.....
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars DISJOINTED, 18 Oct 2006
By 
S. WHITING "UK GAL" (CALFORNIA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Whitethorn Woods (Hardcover)
So disappointing after being so excited to read yet another novel from the grand dame of writing!
I agree either retire gracefully or write a novel of your expertise.
a maeve Binchy fan for ever..............
[...]
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not out of the woods yet, Maeve..., 24 Sep 2006
This review is from: Whitethorn Woods (Hardcover)
I bought this for my wife (a long-time Maeve follower) for some holiday reading. By mid-way she was struggling with the ever-increasing amount of small, only-slightly-coloured-in characters and the general disjointed nature of the overall narrative. She was most disappointed that Maeve had turned in a sub-standard work after a good deal of anticipation. By the end my wife had ceased to care who anyone was or how things ended up and some of the situations were not properly resolved at all (possibly leaving it open for a sequel?).

Maeve seems to have either lost sight of her muse or taken her eye off the ball because this is a genuinelly disappointing novel. Whereas (so I am told) she emeshed well-rounded characters into a flowing story which contributed to an excellent read, this represents the sound of the bottom of the barrel being scraped. Has Maeve become lazy and complacent?

Some of the characters are established briefly at the start and hardly figure at all later, leaving you to believe that Maeve herself forgot about them or couldn't find a way of integrating them into the plot later. If she introduces characters that we are meant to care about only for them to be significantly underwritten later on, why should we continue to care? Some characters are barely developed: "man from Dad's office" etc. I mean, come on?!!

If this is the sort of sub-standard bilge Ms Binchy is going to dish up from now on, it would've been better for her to retire like she said she'd do a few years ago after Scarlet Feather. Maeve: get your act together, go back to see what made your earlier works winners and come back with something a whole lot better than this.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Is it me...?, 5 Nov 2006
By 
G. Foreman "gilly" (Northamptonshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Whitethorn Woods (Hardcover)
I've always really enjoyed a Maeve Binchy book and 'treated' myself to the hardback version of Whitethorn Woods. What a disappointment! I hate a book where you have to keep going back to the beginning trying to work out who the characters are - very complicated. Eventually it all pulled together but by that time I'd lost interest. When passing it on to my 70+ years mother I did so with the warning 'only attempt this in a lucid moment'.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not a novel, rather..., 15 April 2008
By 
Atheana (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Whitethorn Woods (Paperback)
a series of short stories. Each chapter is about a different character and not a continuation of the previous chapter. The characters are lightweight and without substance. Because of the fractured style of the book, there really is no storyline to speak of (short of the repeated mention of St Anne's well).

All in all the book was a huge disappointment and not one I would recommend getting.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointment, 21 Nov 2007
This review is from: Whitethorn Woods (Paperback)
I have read most of Maeve's books and this one I had great difficulty getting into. I had to keep going back to refresh my memory of who the characters were. I cannot say I enjoyed it at all.
I gave it to a couple of friends and they agreed with me.
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Whitethorn Woods
Whitethorn Woods by Maeve Binchy (Hardcover - 23 Aug 2006)
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