Oprah Book Club® Selection, September 1999:
Against all odds, two newlyweds manage to buy the house of their dreams. In 1982, property speculation is beginning to be a big, big thing in Dublin--and their street is very much in an up-and-coming part of town. "They laughed and hugged each other. Danny Lynch from the broken-down cottage in the back of beyond and Ria Johnson from the corner house in the big, shabby estate were not only living like gentry in a big Tara Road mansion, they were actually debating what style of dining table to buy." But for its various inhabitants, the street is to become a boulevard of dreams--some broken, others created anew. Maeve Binchy has long proved herself a secure hand at multiple story lines, and over the course of 500 satisfying pages she focuses on Ria; her best friend, Rosemary Ryan, a beautiful, endlessly selfish career woman; Gertie, the battered wife of a drunkard; and several other intriguing women, each of whom has secrets not to be shared. There is even an all-knowing fortune teller who early on hints that Ria will travel and start a successful business--two things she knows are definitely not
in the offing.
Yet after our supposedly happy housewife and mother of two is confronted by some inexorable home truths, a chance phone call from America will change her life, forcing her to discard her illusions about men, women, and marriage and start all over again. At the same time, the Connecticut caller, Marilyn Vine, has her own lessons to learn when she and Ria swap houses for the summer. Yet there's nothing remotely preachy about this novel--even the bad guys (and yes, they're usually guys) and beautiful mistresses get to maintain some appeal. Instead, Tara Road is a stirring look at the reality behind our consuming fantasies, and a page-turner to boot. --Siobhan Carson
One assumes that Maeve Binchy's fiction--always on the bestseller list--is sold mainly to women: the broader canvas of politics, business and legal matters don't seem to engage her interest. She's at her best in the intimate minutiae of domestic life--hopes and dreams, matters of the heart--and she's well served by her cousin Kate, who narrates her audio books with immense skill and conviction. Tara Road
is in Dublin, where Ria has created an exquisite home for her adored husband Danny and her two children. Her kitchen is a warm, convivial meeting place for family and friends, but Danny seems too busy to enjoy it. To coax him back into the family circle, Ria suggests they have another baby, whereupon he confesses that he's in love with a teenage girl whom he's made pregnant, and with whom he intends to live. Realising that she's been living in a fool's paradise, Ria arranges a house exchange with a New Englander whose marriage is also on the rocks: a month in someone else's life should free them both from their misery. But the reality is more complicated, because the women have not been entirely open with each other. Skeletons emerge from cupboards, and while some characters lose out, others rise like phoenixes from the ashes of their former lives. Welcome to Binchy's variegated world. --Betty Tadman