Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Glass Lake

1995, 1996 Dell edition
Maeve Binchy
The Glass Lake
Original price $7.50, purchase price 49 cents
Very worn paperback

As I noted with Copper Beech, the natural object in the title is important to the story.  Discontented wife and mother Helen McMahon seems to drown in the lake that the very Binchy little town of Lough Glass is named for.  Her twelve-year-old daughter Kit burns the "farewell" note, so that apparent suicide Helen can be buried in the churchyard.  But Helen has run off with her lost love, Louis Gray. "Lena" had hoped to keep in touch with her children and thinks that their father is hiding the truth from them, so she starts writing to Kit, pretending to be Helen's school chum.  Kit visits London five years later and learns the truth.

In some ways, this is the best Binchy novel, in that it has an intriguing plot with a no-win situation, and deeper emotions than usual.  But there's so much about it that doesn't work and, unlike Firefly Summer, it doesn't really satisfy.  As in her past novels, the ending is rushed and a bit implausible (although she still hasn't hit the depths of Penny Candle).  I think this is the longest of the novels so far, over 700 pages, but she tries to do too much in the last 100 or so, especially the last twenty.  Also, I'm getting tired of the "cheating charmer" character, like in Penny Candle and, to a lesser degree, Circle of Friends.  It's soon obvious that Louis is no good, but Lena does what she can to hold on to him.  And then Binchy has a twist where Kit seems to be repeating her mother's history, but it's OK in her case because the promiscuous Stevie Sullivan reforms when he gets involved with her.  Also, I didn't like how Helen gives much less thought to her son, Emmet, when we're meant to think that she misses both children terribly.

As usual, there are chronological errors, but not the typical ones.  The story is set in the 1950s, from I think 1952 to 1959.  There's a heavy-handed bit, before Helen runs off, when she tells Kit that the 1960s will be a great time for women.  (She must've borrowed the time machine from Twisting Clare of Echoes.)  Equally annoying, Binchy can't keep straight the age difference between Kit and Emmet, nor that between Kit's frenemy Clio and kid sister Anna.  Anna is seven when the older girls are twelve, but acts sixteen when they're eighteen, and she's dating fifteen/seventeen-year-old Emmet and twenty-one-year-old Stevie.

I have to ask, did Binchy ever get a good editor?  This is the last of her books I own, although she kept writing right up to her death last year.

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