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Let's All Board "The Lilac Bus"
Lilac Bus - Maeve Binchy
Member Name: anonymili
Lilac Bus - Maeve Binchy
Advantages: An enjoyable and easy read
Disadvantages: It finished
I came across The Lilac Bus quite by accident in a charity shop. I had read books by Maeve Binchy before and remembered quite enjoying them (although I hadn't read anything of hers recently) and this book was in good condition and the name of it intrigued me. I read the spiel on the back and thought I wasn't going to be disappointed paying out £0.30 in a charity shop for a book by an author that I already knew and respected.
~*~ PLOT/CHARACTERS ~*~
Tom FitzGerald takes a group of people to Dublin for work at the start of each week from Rathdoon and brings them back every Friday. There's Nancy Morris, known as Miss Mouse, who works in a hospital as a secretary and is known for her mean ways by all of the residents of Rathdoon as well as her flatmate and colleagues at work. Then you have young Dee Burke, the daughter of a respected doctor, who is studying to be a lawyer. Why does she show such an interest in Nancy every week on the way home? It's not as if they mix in the same circles. There's also middle aged Mikey Burns, who works as a bank porter and tells inappropriate jokes. Why is he such a chirpy chap? Or is he really? We have Judy Hickey who's a few years older than Mikey but seems to have the weight of the world on her shoulders. Kev Kennedy's a quiet one, never has much luggage to bring to Dublin or back home aside from a parcel every week. What's that about? Rupert Green dresses well and loves chatting with Judy, but what's his secret? As the 20 something year old son of aged parents, why does he return home every weekend? It's not as if he really enjoys giving them his company. And what about Celia Ryan whose mother runs the local pub in Rathdoon and seems intent on making a fool of herself all of the time in front of the local population and drinking away the profits?
And what of Tom FitzGerald himself? Why does he take these people back and forth each week? Why did he paint his bus lilac?
~*~ MY ANALYSIS ~*~
The Lilac Bus was Binchy's second novel preceded by Light A Penny Candle in 1982. Circle of Friends (which to my mind was her most successful novel) was released 6 years after The Lilac Bus in 1990. I remember reading Circle of Friends years ago and really enjoying it, then watching the Hollywood film version of it starring Minnie Driver and Chris O'Donnell and thought to myself as I read The Lilac Bus that I would love to see this book made into a film. Having had a browse around the internet, I found that the book has actually been made into a film which I intend to track down and watch soon!
As I read the first chapter of the book which happened to be about Nancy Morris, I realised what was to come. Each chapter is about each of the individuals who travel on The Lilac Bus with the last chapter of the book dedicated to the owner of the bus, Tom FitzGerald.
Each chapter is like a little story in its own right BUT the other characters on the bus are mentioned at regular intervals, some in good; some in bad ways but all making complete sense as one gets further and further into the book. Each chapter is written in such a way that at the end of it you feel that that character's story has been satisfactorily wound up, whether it be in a good or bad or sad way. At the end of the first chapter I didn't like the character any more than I did at the start of it but I understood her more and somewhat empathised with her behaviour even though to even consider being so miserly is completely alien to me. I liked the way her character got confused at why Dee Burke would bother sitting and listen to her on the journey home each week and ask so many questions about her job and her colleagues and she's honestly flattered although surprised that Dee remember so much about her work stories that she asks about the consultants by name.
When I got into the second chapter which was about Dee, the reason for Dee's interest in Nancy's work life became very clear and it was very clever the way each chapter from then on explained something about the characters from their own viewpoint which each other character wondered about in previous and later chapters. I couldn't help but smile to myself knowingly when a character was confused about another character's behaviour and honestly found myself rushing through the pages to find out more and more about each individual who travelled on The Lilac Bus.
The book is only 200 pages long and took me just a matter of days to finish - to be honest I could have finished the whole book in one sitting but it was quite convenient for me to finish a couple of chapters and put it down and to be able to look forward to reading more later. I must admit I was quite disappointed when I got to the end of the book, not because of anything lacking in the book but because I didn't want it to finish - I found myself getting quite attached to the characters - which is a bit of a novelty to me.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the review I hadn't read a Maeve Binchy novel in quite a while and I had forgotten what an easy writing style she has. I found The Lilac Bus very easy to read and felt myself transported to this lovely place in Ireland and even picturing what the neighbourhood looks like and what the characters look like. Binchy doesn't spend too much time describing the characters' actual appearances but you do get a feel for what they could look like quite quickly which I think is a great achievement in considering it's quite a short novel!
~*~ A BIT ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~*~
Maeve Binchy was born in 1940 and is a modern day fiction writer whose books mainly concentrate on modern day and timeless issues faced by Irish women in urban and rural areas. She worked as a teacher and journalist before becoming a short story and novel writer. Although Binchy announced in 2000 that she would not be writing any more novels due to wanting to spend more time with her husband and other activities, she has since written another three novels. It's refreshing to know that, despite being a successful author, Binchy still lives very close to where she grew up in Dalkey, not far from Dublin.
~*~ WHERE TO GET THE BOOK ~*~
I mentioned that I found my copy of The Lilac Bus in charity shop for just 30 pence with the cover price was listed as £5.99 with Random House/Arrow listed as the publishers. The ISBN number is 0-0995-0290-0 for the paperback and 0-7126-9404-8 for the hardback version and you can buy it for £5.49 from Amazon or from ekmpowershop3.com for 3 Euros + (3.30 Euros for delivery).
The Lilac Bus was first published in 1984 by Ward River Press Ltd in Co. Dublin.
~*~ RECOMMENDED OR NOT? ~*~
Personally I thoroughly enjoyed the book and my only complaint was that it was too short - I wanted it to go on for longer but that doesn't mean that I felt the author cut any corners with the chapters or characters. If the book had been longer, one's interest might have waned so I have to admit that it was the right length. If you enjoy books about the problems faced by people who live in rural areas but work or study in big towns this would be a good read for you.
NB: this review is also published at Ciao by myself on the same username
Summary: Definitely recommended...