Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Minding Frankie - Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy is one of my favorite authors when it comes to comfort reading. Her stories don't require a ton of mental effort and they tend towards happy endings. This is her latest novel, centering around an infant named Frankie and her father Noel, but actually about the entire community who is pitching in to help take care of her. There are so many characters in the novel that there's almost no overarching story, but almost all the supporting cast are characters from previous stories, so they don't need as much introduction as they would otherwise. We get a quick visit with the twins, Simon & Maud, and see how they are growing into fine young people and a real credit to Muttie & Lizzie. The characters from Heart & Soul get some time in the spotlight, and the plotline involving Clara Casey & Frank Ennis gets pushed along a little...but not much. Mostly this book just felt like a series of vignettes, loosely held together by the Frankie plotline, but I really felt like that plot wasn't nearly strong enough to hold the book together. There were some moments where it really felt like it was about to take off, and then it just didn't. On the one hand that's a good thing, because Frankie's just a tiny baby and doesn't deserve to have her first year of life be totally traumatic, but Noel and his ongoing struggle with alcoholism just isn't quite compelling enough. Noel's cousin Emily was also a great character, who could have been the plot tying the story together...and again it just sort of fell flat. She's corresponding with her friend Betsy in America, and there's a whole story there, but you just get a glimpse of it. She has a whole romance, that just sort of happens while you're looking the other way. And Moira seemed like she could have been a really neat character...and then just when things seemed like they were starting to get really interesting with her, nothing much happens. Then there's Lisa with her miserable childhood and relationship with Anton.

On the whole I enjoyed this book. Much more than Night of Rain and Stars, but it felt much more like a set of interconnected short stories rather than a novel. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, and I really enjoyed getting caught up with some old friends who I had missed, but I'm not nearly as invested in any of the new characters as I usually am by the end of one of Maeve Binchy's novels.

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