Friday, December 5, 2008
Instead of her usual saga, Maeve Binchy presents Whitethorn Woods as a collection of paired short stories sandwiched between sections of unifying narrative. The stories all involve people somehow connected with the Irish town of Rossmore and St. Anne’s Well located in the nearby Whitethorn Woods. Pilgrims visit the well and its shrine to ask St. Anne (the mother of the Virgin Mary) for help in all sorts of matters, but particularly regarding marriage and children.
Each story is told in two parts, from the perspective of two different narrators. The characters in all the stories are intertwined – sometimes substantially, sometimes only tangentially. Lengthy sections at the beginning, middle, and end involve the local priest and his family and tie the book together, as does the debate over building a by-pass through the Woods and tearing down the shrine.
Like Binchy’s other books, this is not a thrill-a-minute page turner. But the characters are well-formed and their stories are deftly told. A good read.