Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Book #44: Scarlet Feather
Title: Scarlet Feather
Author: Maeve Binchy
Ever since I feel in love with Circle of Friends as a high school student, I've always equated Maeve Binchy novels with comfort food. They're easy going down and very satisfying. Circle of Friends was like a good pan of my childhood best friend Lucy's mom's mac and cheese (follow that?)-- you know, the really crusty, cheesy kind. Tara Road, and the other handful of Binchy books I've read over the years could also be neatly categorized as "mac and cheese books."
Scarlet Feather, ironically enough for my metaphor, is the story of caterers. I can imagine Ms. Binchy seeing the same couple catering the same parties all over Dublin, and using them as her inspiration. In fact, I feel like she did a great job on her research of what really goes into catering work (I worked in events planning for a couple of years while I was in grad school, so I have some experience on that end). I also really enjoyed the sidestory of Simon and Maud, the twin cousins-in-law of the protagonist. But I found myself incredibly frustrated with Cathy Scarlet, around whom the story centers. At the beginning of the novel, Cathy appears to have it all-- a great business, a wonderful husband, good parents, etc... But she's cranky. I don't know if Binchy intended to make her so crotchety. After the fifteenth argument with her "horrible" mother-in-law, I began to think that Cathy was really the horrible one. When her husband suggested that she follow him to a job in the Netherlands and leave her business behind, I felt like she reacted in a similarly crotchety way. But Scarlet Feather, at least for me, raised issues of whether a wife should want to follow her husband to a job halfway around the world (a curve ball she hadn't seen coming) or whether a husband should put on a brave face when an oops pregnancy happens (a curve ball he hadn't seen coming). It all ended rather comfortably, I guess, but I thought she should have worked harder on her marriage. As I was reading it I felt like I was watching an accident happening. I wanted to reach out and tell them to pull their heads out of their butts. Anyway, if Scarlet Feather is mac and cheese, then it's the mac and cheese I made once in the crockpot that curdled. I think we ate it anyway, but it was pretty disgusting. Pretty sad for a book about cooking, right?