I enjoyed Whitethorn Woods, by Maeve Binchy, although it was not quite what I expected. I thought it was going to be a standard linearly-structured novel, but instead there was only a loose plot and each chapter was from the point of view of a different character. All the characters had some connection with the small Irish town of Rossmore, and the thread tying them together is an old well in Whitethorn Woods and the possibility of a new road being built through the woods and destroying the well. The main character is a priest in the village, and he and a few of the other characters appeared multiple times through-out the novel, bringing together the plot. Most of the book, however, felt like a loosely woven collection of vignettes.
Although the style of Whitethorn Woods is different from what I expected, it is effective. Binchy’s writing is excellent and very engaging. There were many times where I could not put the book down, where I just had to finish a chapter before bed. One aspect of the style that I particularly liked was the way in which each pair of chapters were about the same people and events, but from two different points of view. For example, one pair was from the point of view of a daughter and then her mother, while another pair was from the point of view of one best friend and then the other. I thought this was very well done and was different from anything I’ve ever read before.
The ending was a satisfying conclusion to the overarching plot, but I felt as if I wanted to know more about what happened to all the other characters whose lives we only had glimpses into. However, it would not have fit with the style and tone to learn many more details about them and thus it was an appropriate ending.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed Whitethorn Woods and I recommend it. I look forward to reading more books by Maeve Binchy.