I've begun the process of working my way through the never-read books on my home bookshelves. Books acquired for cheap at library sales or used bookstores. I picked up Scarlet Feather, by Maeve Binchy.
I've read a few books by Maeve Binchy in the past, and generally enjoy her slice-of-life storytelling (sometimes more than others). Scarlet Feather has a wide, diverse cast of characters -- which is a little confusing at first, but becomes less so once you start to get into their stories. This time around, the common denomenator in each story is the burgeoning catering business of Cathy Scarlet and Tom Feather. The book takes us through a quite tumultuous year, full of hopes, dreams, ambition, heartache, reconcilliation, laughter, and tears. The book isn't melodramatic, but it's not sacharine sweet either. It's not a fast-paced book, but has a pleasant, steady rhythm. I enjoyed sitting down with these characters and hearing about their lives, and wish I could pop on over to the premises right now to enjoy a cup of tea and some delicious fresh-out-of-the-oven bread, and hear about what everyone is up to. There are no perfect people in this story. In fact, a few of them make some life choices that I find pretty questionable, and I found myself frustrated with certain characters at various points in the story. But those imperfections just enhanced the story. In addition to the characters and pacing, I always enjoy visiting Ireland through Binchy's books, and this one was no exception. Through her descriptions, characters, and even dialogue, Binchy creates a solid sense of place that satisfies my regular need for a fix of the British Isles.
Oh, but be careful not to read Scarlet Feather when hungry, or if you do, have a delicious snack close by because Tom and Cathy make a lot of yummy sounding food.
Bottom line: if you're in the mood for Ireland, a slow-paced slice-of-life story, and lots of description of gourmet cooking, pick up Scarlet Feather.