Scarlet Feather, by Maeve Binchy

Tom Feather and Cathy Scarlet set up a catering company, aiming to provide high quality cuisine for social events. It's a struggle to get the business going, let alone having to cope with all the things going on in their personal lives. Cathy has a fraught relationship with her mother-in-law Hannah, but has to step in when Hannah's nephew and niece are discarded by their parents, while Tom, against his better judgement, has to support his fiancee's ambitions to become a model.

Third MB book in a row that I've read - they were all in the charity shop. I'd say this wasn't as good as Tara Road and I think the reason is that the ratio of plot to characterisation was a bit too high. What I think I like about her books is the feeling you have for the people, and there was rather too much going on, or maybe too many people, for you to warm to them as much. Or at least, it took until quite a long way through the book before I felt the same level of empathy as with other books.

There were quite a lot of similarities between this and Tara Road: notably, both books have children who cause problems by saying things out loud which the adults would have left unspoken; both have a rather distant female character who is well-off and conducts a string of affairs with married men. These felt almost like the same people, just with different names in each book.

A nice description I noticed, when talking of someone who was at a party "he was looking for a background to stand in"

There were also some good passages where Cathy and her husband Neil were discussing their ideas of the future: Neil is a lawyer and his logical, rather clinical approach to problems was very much at odds with Cathy's, but you could see both their points of view: even though Cathy wasn't as articulate as Neil, you understood what she was trying to say even as Neil failed to.

I think the most touching (or sentimental) bits in her books are when people are kind to one another. This was especially noticable in Tara Road, when the Ria's friends befriended Marilyn and helped her, and it happens in this book too: someone will suffer a setback, but a word or deed of generosity really brings a lump to your throat. This happened a couple of times in this book, but it was towards the end, so I guess it relies on you having developed an interest in the characters.

So an enjoyable book, although probably wouldn't recommend this as the first MB for someone to read.

Completed : 26-Jun-2010

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