A warm, feel-good novel about the importance of finding a place where you belong – perfect for fans of Maeve Binchy.
I was browsing around the library files for my next audiobook (I know, I have a number on my Audible and Kobo audiobook accounts already, but I was in the mood to browse through my library’s offerings) and I came across The Library at the Edge of the World. Being in the mood for something nice, and said to be “perfect for fans of Maeve Binchy”, I thought this would be the right one to listen to right now. Emma Lowe was the audiobook’s narrator and she had a lovely Irish lilt and there was some Celtic music tinkling in the background to start the audiobook off in just the right way. (I love when that extra special touch is given to audiobooks – where there is music to start it off, and sometimes when there is musical interludes in-between sections of the story – lovely!)
We’re introduced to Hanna Casey, a woman in her early fifties that has returned to her cranky and bitter mother’s home after her failed marriage, due to a cheating husband. Hanna has an older daughter, Jazz, that flies around the world for her job with an airline company. She visits often, but has always believed it was because of her mother that the marriage to her father, Malcolm, failed. Hanna has left behind her successful and sophisticated life in London managing her husband’s career and creating their well-appointed home, one where many of Malcolm’s business events were held – basically the reason behind the rise and success of her husband in his career and in their social lives. Having to leave all of that behind due to her husband’s infidelity, Hanna is now Finfarren’s librarian – a job that also means taking their book van around the community – and is one that she’s not terribly taken with.
Hanna is obviously not in her happy place, so she rules the library in the old-school way – one where patrons are shushed and fear is in their eyes when she is the one working behind the desk. Despite her co-worker Conor’s attempts to liven up and modernize the library, Hanna will have none of that, not even a small book club! Desperate to get out from under her miserable mother, she takes a loan to renovate her aunt’s shack of a cottage on the coast. While this is going for her and giving her a new lease on life, she also learns of the impending closure of the library and other major changes being proposed for their small community.
Likening this to a Maeve Binchy means it had some pretty big shoes to fill. Binchy was the queen of enveloping you in a warm hug the whole time while reading. She wrote characters filled with wit and charm and everyone was full, inviting and had depth. Hayes-McCoy doesn’t quite take you to that level, but like I said, she had big shoes to fill with that comparison.
While The Library at the Edge of the World was indeed a nice and enjoyable story, the depth of the characters, and the focus on some of the characters over others was something that made this a little off for me. Hanna is the focus of this story, should be the main focus and I did really like her. But you would have thought the emphasis and building of the characters closest to her would have been better developed. People like Malcolm, Jazz and her mother Mary Casey. Instead, we have chapters devoted to very secondary characters, such as the man renovating Hanna’s aunt’s cottage, and other really rather unnecessary people. We don’t quite ever get the depth of detail into Mary Casey’s bitterness and disdain for her daughter, and there is remoteness to her daughter and ex-husband’s characters that makes for strange reading, especially when pages are devoted to miscellaneous people.
It is not until approximately 60% of the way into the story where the threat of the library closure is brought up, and not until the entrance of this wonderful character named Sister Michael where the story really picks up speed. While Sister Michael is an excellent character, there is that distance again felt towards her – she’s not as well-developed as you would wish. So, this is definitely not a Maeve Binchy success, but The Library at the Edge of the World is a nice story – if you are looking for something nice and enjoyable I would recommend. I really don’t think you’ll feel that super warm fuzzy cuddle you get with a Binchy book, but it is a nice story. It’s also apparently a series, so there will be a continuation to Hanna’s story and the fictional community of Finfarren.