Title: Tara Road and Quentins
Author: Maeve Binchy
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We’ve been living in our house for just over six years. One would think that, in all that time, all the boxes would be unpacked. One would be wrong. Please never go in my basement. I, however, did and poking around a box of books found my much loved and much beaten up copy of Tara Road, by far my favorite Maeve Binchy book. I went on a streak of reading her in my early 20s, and I think I’ve read this book at least a half a dozen times (and at 659 pages, that’s quite the feat). Needing something to pull me out of my reading doldrums, I dove in and then went immediately on to Quentins, which has several characters from her previous books woven into the story. God, I love these books.
Quick summaries: Tara Road is mostly the story of Ria. It starts with her in her early 20s, starting out in the world, and trying to find a job, friends, a love life…which she does in a real estate office. She meets Rosemary, who quickly becomes her best friend, and Danny, with whom she falls in love and marries. They have a couple of kids, get lucky with buying a house on Tara Road (soon to become The Place To Live in Dublin), and go on with their lives. Danny is a jackass who’s involved in shady business shit and can’t keep it in his pants. The last 1/2-1/3 of the book involves Ria doing an impulsive house exchange with Marilyn,an American who’s dealing with her own demons. The two get involved in each others lives during the two month house exchange, helping each other learn to cope and move on.
Quentins is about the much-mentioned fancy-pants restaurant…kind of. It’s also about Ella, a young girl who gets involved with an older, married man, who also is involved in a lot of shady business shit! (I never said these were the most original plot lines, okay?). In order to recover financially and mentally, she gets involved in helping a couple friends pitch a documentary on the famed restaurant. This opens up a lot of little vignettes about past Binchy characters, as well as catching up to see how they’re doing in the present (including the aforementioned Ria, who gets such a nice little ending).
These books are comfort food to me. I can get lost for them in hours, happily, just enjoying revisiting the characters. Binchy might not have been the most prolific or inventive write, but she writes from her heart. These are characters you love, you root for, you revile. And what’s more impressive, her books have massive casts and yet, she keeps them all straight. I never end up confused as to who is who, which is so nice. These books just make me happy, and that, I think, is the most important thing. I got into a conversation once with my uncle about music, and his view was that music should Say Something. Honestly? Fuck that. I love music that just makes me happy, makes me want to dance and sing along. If it has a Message too, then awesome. But not everything needs to have some greater good attached to it. Books are much the same. These might not be changing the world, but they bring joy into it. What more can you ask for?
Rating: 5/5 for both, because I said so.