Second Bookses

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Tara Road

Tara Road - Maeve Binchy My first introduction to he writing of Maeve Binchy was her novel Circle of Friends, after which I read The Glass Lake. When I saw that Tara Road was chosen as an Oprah selection, I thought it would be even better.::: Girl Meets Boy :::Ria is a pretty if unspectacular girl. She lives with her widowed mother and older sister, takes a secretarial course, and takes a position at a real estate agency, where she meets the gorgeous and ambitious Rosemary and the dashing Danny Lynch. In real life, Danny would have gone for Rosemary, but in Binchy's world, the dashing fellow always goes for the wallflower, and Ria and Danny begin dating, get pregnant, and got married. Danny's ambition leads them to purchase a run-down manse on Tara Road, which Danny believes is a steal in a neighborhood that is up-and-coming. Ria leaves the real estate agency after Danny steals a client, and aligns himself with the prominent businessman Barney McCarthy, an adulterer, risk taker, and all-around slimy character.With Barney as his role model, Danny ends up leaving Ria for his pregnant 22-year-old girlfriend, and Ria, after a spur-of-the-moment phone call, engages in a house swap with an American woman, Marilyn, who is also going through a crisis. Both women try new things and make changes in their lives over the two months they are in each other's homes, with a happy ending all tied up neatly in a bow.::: Great Writing in a Bad Novel :::The great thing about Maeve Binchy's novels is that she can make a bowl of instant pudding into a chocolate torte. Her writing style is rich, and she keeps the action moving with inter-related sub-plots, such as Ria's friend Gertie's marriage to an abusive alcoholic. Binchy also excels at keeping the reader guessing with plot swerves and twists that you never see coming. Even with a large cast of characters, the character development is so incredible that you feel you know each and every one of them, and actually find yourself interested in their stories.Of course, that makes it sound like I loved this book, and purely from a mechanical standpoint, I did. But I was amazed that Oprah picked this as a selection. Judging from my experience reading Tara Road as well as The Glass Lake and certain parts of Circle of Friends, you'd think that Binchy has some obsession with women who just can't stand up for themselves. Each and every woman in Tara Road, with the possible exception of Marilyn, is wronged by a man (or men) again and again and again, and never seems to learn from it. Gertie stays with her husband even though he beats her and terrifies her children and makes her clean houses of her friends in addition to her regular job to pay for his alcohol. Ria's mother was widowed by a man who left them no insurance and no pension to live. Ria's sister Hilary marries a man more interested in pinching pennies than anything else, and ceases to have sex with her when they don't have children.And then there is Ria. Tara Road seems as if it is supposed to be a story of triumph, of a woman who built her life around a man only to have her life demolished in front of her, then picks herself up by her bootstraps and moves on. If that was what Ria actually did, I would have been singing the praises of this novel to anyone I met. But the problem is that Ria, just like every other woman in this novel, would still take Danny back. He leaves her for a younger woman. He allows a lien on their wonderful home to finance his boss' shady business dealings. He is the most unbelievably self-centered man in the world, and even after everything he does, Ria would still take him back, and go back to the way things were, and I have a hard time accepting that as a triumph.::: If She Won't Kick Him to the Curb, I Will :::Perhaps I wanted more from Ria, and from Tara Road, than is realistic. I know that there are women out there in the same position as Gertie, getting beaten and selling their out-of-touch families on a fairy tale story of a marriage, and like Ria herself, trying hard to stand on her own and still failing because of her obsession with a man who never did love her back. The sheer excellence of Binchy's writing elevates Tara Road to a two-star rating, but that's as high as I'm willing to concede.This review originally published at Epinions:

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