Thursday, November 25, 2010

Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy

66. Scarlet Feather
by Maeve Binchy
fiction, 2000
Kindle book - 12
second reading
finished, 10/25/10

If pressed to name my favorite Maeve Binchy book, I think it would have to be Scarlet Feather. This is my second reading, and now that I own it, I will probably read it again and again. I love these characters. Cathy Scarlet and Tom Feather want to begin a catering business. Cathy is married to a lawyer, Neil who works hard to help those who don't always get legal support, and Tom is in love with Marcella, a beautiful woman who wants to be a model.

Cathy has spent her whole married life feeling that her mother-in-law was disappointed that her son married a woman who didn't come from a 'good' family. Cathy's parents are dear people; 'salt of the earth' as they say, except that her dad is a gambler whose every penny goes on a bet. Cathy's mother is a hard-working house cleaner, and in fact was the cleaner for Neil's family. Neil's uncle and aunt's family life is terrible. The man is gone all the time and the woman is an alcoholic. Their older son is a selfish crook, and the two young twins are a sad case. No one wants them. Maud and Simon are two of the dearest children I've met in literature.

All this may sound dismal, like one of those gloomy books I steer clear of, but it isn't at all. These facts are dealt with in a very matter of fact way. There is a lot going on in the book with various family members. There isn't any melodramatic event; there is no startling tragedy. Life just moves along in its pleasant, trying, troublesome, humorous way. Problems come up, but they are solved. Not everyone is bubbly and happy, but there is no sense of life not being worthwhile. Indeed, it is just the opposite. This is one of the most life-affirming books I've ever read. People have an outlook that is encouraging and exemplary.

The book also details two breakups. The slow coming apart of a couple is so well done. And, I expect, very true. People do go in different directions, and as we see in this book, it is often their careers that come first. Their jobs take a tremendous amount of time and energy. There is no time to talk about the big or little things. The book is an example of the opposite of Del Griffith's motto in Planes,Trains and Automobiles: Like your work, love your wife.

If you've never read Maeve Binchy, this would be a marvelous place to begin. It is set during the rise of the 'Celtic Tiger,' which we know has now fallen, rather spectacularly. The themes in Maeve Binchy's earlier books, which take place in an older Ireland, are wrapped up with the Church and social conventions. These modern Irish people are not bound by the old traditions, and are making their way into a new world. A perfect book, in my estimation.


  1. Thanks for the review - I just requested it from the library. Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

  2. I'm reading Minding Frankie right now! Seriously, right now. One of my teacher friends, who retired in June, is also a Maeve Binchy fan. I saw it had been released, and thought of Bonnie. Within a few days, she called to tell me she had finished and did I want it? So we got to have a nice visit in the exchange of books.

    I love all of Maeve Binchy, but Evening Class is my absolute favorite. It starts all the characters who appear in the later books. Plus, they go to Italy.

  3. Island Sparrow, you'll love it!

    Raidergirl, amazing! I'm looking forward to it. What a very nice story about Bonnie.
    A friend loaned me Heart and Soul which I want to read first. And I adore Evening Class. And the one in Greece, Nights of Rain and Stars. I want to read EC again. Maybe I'll buy that one for my Kindle, too!

  4. There's soemthing so very refreshing about Maeve Binchy, isn't there? One always feels uplifted when completing one of her novels. I love Tara Road, as well, and have you read This Year It Will Be Different? It is a collection of short stories for Christmas by Binchy, and I love them!

  5. I haven't read Maeve Binchy in awhile and I haven't read this one. I must rectify this. Thank you for a wonderful review.

  6. Bellezza, I haven't read Tara Road, but I have read the Christmas stories. I ought to buy them and add them to my Christmas book collection. Thank for the reminder.

    Life on the cut off, thank you! I don't see Maeve's books written about very often on the blogs I read. I wonder why?

  7. I have read Binchy and love her. I picked up this book at a library sale for 25 cents...can't wait to read it one of these days!!

  8. I have not read her books in a number of years. Use to read them all the time -- need to read this book. Thank you for reminding me of this writer.

  9. Staci, I would begin today! I think you'll really enjoy the story.

    Ernestine, there are some I haven't read yet, and hope to soon. This one is very special.

    And if you come back, Bellezza, I just ordered This Year It Will Be Different - used, like new HC copy!

  10. Nan, I love Maeve Binchy's books! I have read many of them and look forward to reading more!

  11. Sherri, if you stop back, I'd love to know which ones you like best.

  12. I'd forgotten all about Maeve Binchy, thank you for reminding me. I used to read each one as they came out but can't remember when I stopped or why. Anyway, I have ordered the Scarlet Feather and anticipate a lot of Irish reading coming up.

  13. Carole, what's fun about the later books is that we see some of the characters again. There are several I haven't read either, and I so look forward to them. Winter seems an especially perfect time to read her work, I think.

  14. Maeve Binchy! I used to read her books, but had forgotten about her somehow. Great choice for my Kindle. Thanks Nan.

  15. Sallie, I really do like the newer ones best. I love this book.

  16. I've never read anything by Binchy. I think I tried Light a Penny Candle many years ago, but couldn't get interested. You've piqued my interest, especially with this line, "This is one of the most life-affirming books I've ever read. People have an outlook that is encouraging and exemplary." The Shell Seekers immediately came to mind!

  17. Les, her later stuff is very different from the earlier books. They changed just as Ireland itself changed. I think SF is a happier book in general than TSS.

  18. Hi Nan, I just read my first Maeve Binchy novel, A Week In Winter. I thoroughly enjoyed all the characters. I want to read another one of her books. Kay (Kay's Reading Life) told me you are a big Binchy fan and thought Scarlet Feather was your favorite. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this book as well as the others. Now I see I'm going to have to sample the older books so as to see the changes in people. Thanks for all the reviews.

    1. Sorry to be so long replying to your comment, Margot. I have written about many of her books. You could do a search for MB or go to authors (tab under the blog photo) and scroll down to her name.

  19. Great review, I am a big fan of Binchy's and have read each of her books, some I've read twice. I'm glad you posted your link in a comment on my site.


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