My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Evacuated from Blitz-battered London, shy and genteel Elizabeth White is sent to stay with the boisterous O’Connors in Kilgarret, Ireland. It is the beginning of an unshakeable bond between Elizabeth and Aisling O’Connor, a friendship that will endure through twenty turbulent years of change and chaos, joy and sorrow, soaring dreams and searing betrayals. Through those years of friendship Aisling and Elizabeth wind in and out of each other’s lives. As they grow, fall in love, through happy times and disappointments, they come to realize that not all troubles will be solved, nor all wishes granted by lighting a penny candle.
I first read Light a Penny Candle years ago when I was a teenager, it was the first Maeve Binchy book I read and by far my favorite, and through the years I have re-read it several times. I have read all of Binchy’s books, most are what I would call “easy reads” – light hearted and warm but a bit predictable. However when I recently read Light a Penny Candle again and remembered why I loved it so much and I still find myself completely immerse in the story.
The characters are well written and strong; the story is one of friendship and the growth, struggle and joys that happen along the way. Maeve Binchy paints a glorious story of the lives and loves of two women bound together by friendship. I felt as though I was right alongside Aisling and Elizabeth in Ireland watching them grow into adulthood and confront family conflicts, love affairs, and failed marriages.
The story evolves over 1940s to 1960s, and illuminates the stifling lack of privacy typical of small-town life.
The only thing I disliked was the abrupt ending – it left me thirsting for more (a sign of a good book if you ask me), I wanted to know what happened to Aisling and Elizabeth after the book ended.
Over the years, each time I would reached for a new Maeve Binchy book I found myself thinking of the girls of “Light a Penny Candle” where were they nao and how were they doing. I still have my original book (I got it from a church book swap) – it is old, tattered, and worn, but opening up its pages brings me home to a place I feel happy and comfortable, home to Kilgarret!