(Reviewed by Shannon Bloomstran OCT 31, 2002)
Heads up all you "happy ending" junkies. You know who you are. You're the ones who want to remake Casablanca so Ilsa leaps off the plane and into Rick's arms, the ones who cheer when Dorothy returns wto Kansas, the ones who break out in a cold sweat just thinking about Anna Karenina. I'm giving you this heads up because Maeve Binchy, who I call the Queen of Happy Endings has a new book out. It's called "Quentins," (the missing apostrophe is intentional) and tells two stories; one about young Ella Brady and her ill-fated love life and the other about a stylish Dublin restaurant, Quentins. It also boasts a bushel of happy endings.
When I review books, I try hard to evaluate each on its own merits and not compare different works from the same author. However, Binchy makes that a difficult task here because she incorporates several characters from her previous novels into the action at Quentins. Binchy's fans will recognize Signora from Evening Class, Ria from Tara Road and several others. I have read several of these works, although I couldn't recall much about them. Therefore, I found this a bit distracting, something akin to a singer throwing in previous hits on a new CD. More serious fans will probably appreciate knowing a little bit more about what happens to these beloved characters.
Binchy does have a knack for creating strong, believable characters and the main character in Quentins, Ella Brady, is no exception. Like many of the other lead characters in Binchy's novels, Ella is a strong and warm young woman living in the new Ireland. Over the years, Binchy's novels have chronicled the changes in Ireland as well as the lives and loves of its citizens. Our heroine, a young science teacher, meets and falls for a stylish older man, financier Don Richardson who is seemingly locked in a marriage of convenience. Ella takes up with Don over her parents' and friends' strenuous objections. As you might guess, all is not what it seems with Vile Don and unsuspecting Ella finds herself in the middle of an international scandal. Binchy weaves a taught story around Ella and Don and although one probably knows in her heart what will happen, it's still compelling enough to stick around for the ride.
As Ella's scandal reaches its apex, she resigns from her teaching job and takes a position with a tiny, independent film company run by an old friend. They decide to make documentary about the day in the life of the restaurant, Quentins, focusing on the unique stories of the patrons and staff. Binchy intersperses these stories throughout the novel and although they are very sweet and quite compelling on their own right, they tend to distract from the overall plot involving Don and Ella. I liked Ella, and was of course rooting for her to dump Don and move on, so I found it difficult to leave her story midstream to read about say, a waitress and her attempts to find love. All of the stories are fast paced, though, so one doesn't have to wait too long to get back to the action.
Quentins (both the novel and the restaurant) is peopled with warm and lovable characters. From the couple who put their heart and soul into Quentins, to Ella's friend, Deirdre who is "cross as a pack of weasels" to soulful American philanthropist, Derry, who rediscovers his Irish roots, Binchy has given every reader someone to cheer for. It's a big sloppy Golden Retriever of a book. You can see the endings, all of them happy, coming a mile away, and even though the writing is not always crisp and sparkling, everyone can find something to like about Quentins.
- Amazon readers rating: from 101 reviews
Read an excerpt from Quentins at the author's website
(back to top)
Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- London Tansports: Stories (1978)
- Dublin 4 (1981)
- Light a Penny Candle (1983)
- The Lilac Bus: Stories (1984)
- Echoes (1986)
- Firefly Summer (1988)
- Silver Wedding (1989)
- Circle of Friends (1992)
- The Copper Beech (1992)
- The Glass Lake (1995)
- Evening Class (1997)
- This Year It Will Be Different and Other Stories (1997)
- The Return Journey (1998)
- Tara Road (1999)
- Scarlet Feather (2001)
- Quentins (October 2002)
- Nights of Rain and Stars (September 2004)
- Whitehorn Woods (March 2007)
- Heart and Soul (February 2009)
- Minding Frankie (March 2011)
- Aches and Pains
- The Maeve Binchy Writers Club
Movies from Books:
(back to top)
- The official website for Maeve Binchy
- Bookreporter.com interview with Maeve Binchy (1999)
- Read Ireland on Maeve Binchy and her novels
- TeenReads.com review of Evening Class
- TeenReads.com review of Tara Road
- BookPage interview with Maeve Binchy on Scarlet Feather
- ReviewOfBooks.com collection of reviews for Quentins
- Read an excerpt from Nights of Rain and Stars
- BookReporter review of Nights of Rain and Stars
- BookPage review of Whitehorn Woods
(back to top)
About the Author:
Maeve Binchy was born in Dalkey, a small village outside of Dublin, Ireland in 1940. To this day she draws on her experiences there when creating the rural villages so often found at the heart of her novels. Binchy received her B.A. from University College in Dublin and became a teacher. Her teaching post at a Jewish school and subsequent vacation in Israel inspired her to work on a kibbutz there. While abroad, Binchy wrote letters to her father every week describing life in a land that was ever on the brink of war. When her father sold one of her letters to The Irish Times for 18 pounds, Binchy, who had been making £16 working at the school, thought that she had truly arrived. She soon became a popular columnist, writing twice-weekly articles distinguished by a quirky, self-deprecating humour.
From these humble beginnings, Binchy's success has been astounding. As well as her many bestselling novels, she writes short stories, and plays.
Maeve Binchy lives with her husband, Gordon Snell, in Dublin.