The Copper Beech

- Maeve Binchy

Goodreads Book Blurb:

Shancarrig School stands in the shade of a glorious old copper beech whose colours tell the passing of the seasons and the years: a tree that has watched over many young lives …

Under Junior Assistant Mistress Maddy Ross’s careful gaze the children play, but out of school Maddy’s gaze lingers where it shouldn’t. Maura Brennan, a bundle of fun from the rough end of town, plays with her pals: leap year baby Eddie Barton, the apple of his mother’s eye, and Nessa Ryan, who little realises as she carves his name at the roots of the copper beech on the very last day of school, that she’ll get a lot more from one of her schoolmates than her first shy kiss.

Genres:

My Review:

enjoyable/easy to read:
3.5/5

The Copper Beech is less a narrative story and more short stories about overlapping characters in a small town; the flow was too abrupt between perspectives, and each character had only one chapter to tell their story.

I liked these characters, and the amount of overlap within the chapters was enough to provide outside context without feeling like it was the same story repeatedly. Each chapter was long enough for most of the characters to win me over as they became complex and engaging people with unique views of the world. As to be expected, there were some duds, but every town has to have a few.

Maddy is a bit of a fruitcake. She’s a little too sheltered: naive and oblivious to the world around her. Brian is the perfect foil to take advantage of these characteristics. Though his actions may not have malicious motives, his self-centred nature is ignorant of what effect these actions have on others, particularly Maddy. She doesn’t show up in many of the other stories, but it’s entirely unsurprising when she does as the

religious nut being tricked into joining a cult.


Maura is one of my favourite characters with modest goals that made her endearing. She’s self-possessed, takes everything in stride, and keeps working towards what she wants, dragging any obstacle along with her. Unconcerned about how others view her, Maura takes pride in what she does and lives her life in the way she pleases.

It took some time to warm up to Eddie. Actually, I think I warmed up to Christine and Eddie’s mother more than him. He’s a bit dull and passive for my taste, and while he improved slightly in the end, I wish there had been more Christine in this chapter.

Dr Jims was infuriating. He doesn’t take his own medical advice, struggles to live with the consequences, and then basically neglects his child for decades. He seems like a good doctor, a good member of the community, but an absent and oblivious father.

Nora Kelly’s story was heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal parts. Unfortunately, we don’t see much of her outside of the perspective of motherhood, so it’s difficult to see her as a complex character. But what we do get to know about her is incredibly touching.

Nessa is the underdog story you love to read. Self-conscious and unhappy her entire childhood, she manages to turn it around without realising it, gaining self-confidence and learning how to take her rightful place in the world almost overnight. I was worried Nessa was heading down the same path as Maura and many of the other female side characters in this book, but I should have had more faith in her. She seems to cross a line where she suddenly has the self-awareness to understand not only her own motives for her actions but those of everyone around her as well. It was refreshing and wonderful to read. Nessa isn’t petty or vindictive; she acts in her own interest and doesn’t let anyone else drag her down.

Richard doesn’t deserve a paragraph. Selfish, disgusting pig.

Leo had the biggest buildup out of everyone but was a bit of a letdown. Sure, her mother is batshit crazy, but it’s a pretty flimsy excuse for everything that happens. I think Foxy’s perspective would’ve been more interesting. Leo doesn’t really do anything; she floats from one situation to another, doing what is expected of her in a slightly nervous and anxious manner.

The last chapter, tying all the others together, was a little fairy story happy ending for me, but it was nice to get one last peek and where everyone ended up. Karma is alive and strong in this town, and everyone seems to get what they want – if they deserve it. This town is a lot less gossipy than most small towns, and while it’s not unlikely that some secrets could be kept, many of the big, terrible secrets stay hidden for a lot longer than seems likely. Despite this, I enjoyed this collection of what I’m considering short stories. Each chapter was the perfect length, and most of these characters were worth reading about.

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