Light a Penny Candle


This is Maeve Binchy’s first novel, and I think it’s probably her best. I realise that Binchy’s writing is not usually considered great literature, and indeed I don’t consider it that myself, but I’ve always enjoyed reading her novels anyway.

The last few books by Binchy that I have read have been a mixed bag – easy reading, but nothing more than that. I have been quite scathing about them in my reviews here and here. This one is different and I am happy to say that I really, really enjoyed it.

It’s the story of two girls, Aisling and Elizabeth, and their friendship through the years of their growing up up to their thirties. The book starts during World War 2, and explains how the girls meet as children, how they grow up, drift apart, and yet end up leading strangely parallel lives. However, throughout their ups and downs, they are always there for each other laughing each other’s troubles away.

I haven’t given you much of a story synopsis here. It’s precisely because it is that kind of book – a little winding, and sweet but make no mistake, it’s not even a bit boring. I also think this book works really well because Binchy is more comfortable with the era and the people of that time than when she is writing some of her more “modern” novels. She also has a real knack for writing characters that are nice, everyday type of people without making them boring.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book till about 3/4ths of the way in. Then, I think she started struggling with a logical point at which to end the book. The nature of the story does not really encourage a clear-cut ending. But, the ending Binchy eventually came up with was abrupt in the extreme. I was still not ready to end the stories of Elizabeth and Aisling. In fact, as soon as the book was over, I looked up Wikipedia to check if there was a sequel to the book. Unfortunately not 🙁 so I just have to continue to wonder how things eventually did turn out for these two girls. And that’s really the only drawback to this book.

OK, there is actually one more drawback. The blurb at the back of my book hints that this is some sort of love triangle with the two girls competing for the attentions of one man. But that’s really only one very minor side-plot of the book. The real story is much more than that so don’t be taken in. I would never in a million years categorize this book as a romantic triangle.

  • Haha, poorly written blurb! Nice review!

  • An interesting review… seems like something one might pick up.

  • priyaiyer

    Sounds like a nice, easy read 🙂
    I read Maeve Binchy’s short story collection some time back, and quite liked it. My reaction was just like yours – it was nothing special, not great literature, but was fun reading it 🙂

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