About the Book

Light a Penny Candle is a Novel which was written by Maeve Binchy, a prolific Irish author who has written a great many wonderful novels. She has written some my favorite slice of life novels, especially “Circle of Friends” and “Evening Class”. Binchy is a master of making the people and situations feel real, making it extremely easy to sympathize with her characters.

Her style is a unique one which keeps the reader spellbound throughout the prose.  “Light a penny Candle” is actually Binchy’s first published work, and I hadn’t read until just recently. I had been meaning to read it for quite some time, but I just never got around to. Once I did I really needed to voice some of my thoughts about the book.

Synopsis

This Synopsis was taken from the authors own site. (http://maevebinchy.com/project/light-a-penny-candle/)

Writing with warmth, wit and great compassion, Maeve Binchy tells a magnificent story of the lives and loves of two women, bound together in a friendship that nothing could tear asunder – not even the man who threatened to come between them forever.

Evacuated from Blitz-battered London, Elizabeth is sent to stay with the O’Connor family. At first she is overcome by the noise and confusion of Ireland, by the extravagant emotionalism of a people quick to anger and swift to forgive. But soon, through the determined friendship of ten-year-old Aisling and the love of Eileen, Elizabeth begins to enjoy life as never before. When she goes back to England after the war this family remains part of her life.

Through twenty years of friendship Aisling O’Connor and Elizabeth White’s paths will cross and re-cross. As they face their loves, their marriages and their disappointments, they come to realise that not all problems will be solved, nor all wishes granted by lighting a penny candle.

The Review

My Overall Thoughts

Overall, I liked the novel, however, unlike some of Binchy’s other works, it did not leave a lasting impression on me. Even though it has barely been a week since I read it, the details are slipping away easily and I find myself having to crack it open again and again to fact check. Usually, when a book or movie is entertaining enough, I remember the details for months afterward. Now, this doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the book when I read it, it just means that it’s not necessarily a brilliant book just an ok one. In the end found the novel pleasant but ultimately forgettable.

The Best Parts of the Novel

The book has many positive points to address. The novel was quite long (800 pages or so), but unlike some books, (looking at you G.R.R.M) it was very easy to read.

Characterization

The characters felt incredibly real and as if I could go outside and meet them in the flesh if I just walk around the corner. Each character interacted believably with both other characters and the environment. Each character is flawed and human and the problems they face give further credibility to the characterization.  Their motivations were always clear even if you as the reader disagree with their decisions (as I did frequently), you can still understand why they do what they do. The protagonists are teenage girls and they feel like teenage girls. As we watch them grow through the prose, we also witness the evolution of their personalities as they grow. It is fascinating to see the progress of their characters and the journey they go through.

Themes

A fundamentally important theme throughout this book is the family and friendship dynamics between the protagonists and the supporting characters. This dynamic is thoroughly explored and multiple facets of human relations are discussed in the novel.  It chronicled the life of two young girls as they grow up together during the War. They turn into young women on opposite sides of the sea and throughout it all retain their amazing friendship.

Setting

The setting (which is the duration and aftermath of World War II) is made incredibly realistic and immediate through the inclusion of small details and their effect on the character’s lives and psyche. Each character is affected by the events around them and the actions of other characters making the whole feel much more cohesive and interesting. Binchy also does not shy away from controversial topics of the time such as Irish resentment of Britain etc. and that lends a sort of gravity to her work.

Things That Were Meh

Though the characters are captivating and enjoyable he book gets bland and uninteresting near the end. It feels like you are forcing yourself to read, the characters lose their charm and the prose drags on. I feel that because this is Binchy’s first novel she is still inept at writing endings and so drags it out and also makes the Aisling and Elizabeth (the protagonists) seem out of character.

I loved the story, parts of which were heartbreaking, and while I can see how the ending could have happened, I didn’t like it (and I can’t explain why, without giving everything away) and I didn’t like the writing style about 30 pages from the end. It became choppy, and was obviously intentional, in 2 – 3 sentence bursts of action at a time, before moving the spotlight on to the next character’s piece of action.

I also disliked some of the morals imparted by the novel, and that distracted from my enjoyment of it. (Can’t say much more without spoilers.) The novel also had some questionable themes and messages regarding abortion and polygamy that might be offensive to some.

My Final Thoughts

Though Maeve Binchy ranks high in my list of Top authors, this one was not really my cup of tea. I would much rather recommend reading one of her other works such as, “Evening Class”, “Circle of Friends”, or “Quentins”. On the other hand, it is an easy to read and somewhat enjoyable book so if you have nothing better to do (like me) then I say, go for it!

If you are as much a bibliophile as me check out the Top 10 List of My Ultimate Favourite Books.


Disclaimer:

This review is the Author’s opinion, the author does not claim anything stated here as fact. If you disagree with anything written in this article please do not hesitate to sound of in the comments down below. However, please keep in mind that the author is not liable for any information stated in this post. It is purely opinion.

The Novel “Light a Penny Candle” and all of its materials are owned by Maeve Binchy. We are merely using some of them in this post to illustrate a point (fair use). If you wish for your materials to be taken down please contact us and we will remove them immediately.