January 4, 2012

This Year It Will Be Different by Maeve Binchy: Review

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Better late than never, right? I read This Year It Will Be Different by Maeve Binchy Christmas week and I can't say that it inspired feelings of comfort and joy. It should be retitled: It's Christmas, Shut Up and Eat Your Turkey. Or possibly: A Cheater's Christmas.

I used to read Maeve Binchy by the truckload and while her books are realistic, they certainly aren't happy. This collection of short stories is no different. It's a variety of stories about families who barely get along, women having affairs with married men, unhappy housewives/daughters/sons/etc. It's Christmas and everybody's miserable. Somehow they all muddle through and salvage something from the season. 

In the title story a woman who does everything for her family decides that this year they will all help out. Instead of making this announcement, she passive aggressively dilly-dallies over the Christmas preparations. Her family is perplexed: why isn't Mom cooking like she usually does? They think they have a solution but of course being selfish jerks they do not. There is so much wrong with this picture. There are a number of stories of women crying in their wine as they wait for their lovers to visit them over the holiday season, usually for a brief howdy-doody away from the wife and kiddies. Those were very cynical, if you ask me.

There were a couple of good ones though: Miss Martin's Wish and A Typical Irish Christmas. In the first, Miss Martin, dumped at the altar years before, goes to New York for Christmas. The children she teaches convince her to do it. Somehow they have the idea that if you wish on the Statue of Liberty it will come true. It has a heartwarming end. A Typical Irish Christmas sees a new widower heading to Ireland to escape his memories. He helps a father and daughter resolve their differences. I wanted more of this! Sad but then Happy, like It's a Wonderful Life. Granted most of the protagonists have an epiphany of some sort, even if it's "Maybe I shouldn't sleep with married guys any more." It's a Christmas miracle!

Maeve Binchy does tell a good story and none of these were a chore to read., even though they weren't all happy ones. Maybe it's best not to read them all at once at Christmastime, not if you want to keep your Christmas spirit. Humbug.

PS- Yes, that cheesy gold covered copy is the one I have. Jealous?

Ratings:

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7 comments :

  1. I just read this one as well and I have the same copy. I did love the story about the teacher who goes to NYC, (as did you I see). The rest weren't very merry, but she can write a great story.

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  2. I liked this book of Binchy's very much, but now that I reflect on it I can see that it's because I was having a rather sorrowful time in my life. Her stories cheered me up in the sense that there's an expectation that everyone should be happy at Christmas, and it doesn't always work out that way. You're right, they aren't exactly a harbinger of Christmas Joy. On the other hand, they did make me appreciate the good that I have.

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  3. It's been a while since I've read Binchy and you're right, her books don't have a happy feel to them. I'm not sure I'd want to read that at Christmas.

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  4. Melissa- That was the best one, IMO.

    Bellezza- Mostly I was bothered by all the cheating. I know she writes a lot of books with cheating but there were so many stories with it in this one.

    Kathy- I haven't read her in years!

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  5. I hadn't read Binchy in years either but just in Autumn I decided to start Deweys Readathon with it, to start off easily. Must say I did enjoy it again. I don't know the book you are describing here but it does sound good. Maybe for the next holidays ;)

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  6. Experience- A few years ago all I read was Binchy. I got a bit burned out and haven't touched a book of hers since. I still have a couple unread ones on my shelf.

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  7. I struggle with Binchy's work for exactly the reasons you state. All the adultery really gets to me after a while. She writes a great story, but one would think that there is no such thing as the sanctity of marriage in any of her stories!

    I'm sorry this one wasn't as festive for you as it should/could have been.

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