The Return Journey

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 June, 2010, 12:00am

The Return Journey
by Maeve Binchy
Orion, HK$104

For three decades, Irish novelist Maeve Binchy has wooed readers with the gentle emotional swells and falls of her expansive books. The Return Journey is something of a departure. A series of short stories, it packs Binchy's main concerns - love, both romantic and familial - into only a few pages. As so often, her keynote is wistful, humorous disappointment. In Gerald and Rose, two people perfect for each other meet, spend a wonderful day and go their separate ways. Binchy is just as capable of turning this formula on its head: in Part of it All, a rather nervous elderly couple go for an intimidatingly glamorous holiday to the French Riviera. Binchy's effect relies more upon charm than anything original: you are unlikely to find a coruscating account of, say, financial collapse. Indeed, there is something pleasantly old-fashioned about many of the stories. The opener, The Return Journey, tells of letters sent between a slightly fractious mother and daughter. The Wrong Suitcase takes that old trope - two people pick each other's bags (a literal (suit)case of mistaken identities) - and follows it to a grumpy conclusion. The Return Journey is short but sweet.