Maeve Binchy, Author . Dutton $25.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-525-94682-3

Fans of the bestselling Binchy will be grateful that the basic formula is still intact—decent people pulling through hard times—and that some favorite characters from previous novels reappear: Cathy Scarlet from Scarlet Feather, Nora from Evening Class, Ria from Tara Road and others. When Dubliner Ella Brady's affair with a married financial consultant turns sour—he bilks his clients of their hard-earned money and then hightails it to Spain—she decides to throw herself into something productive: she agrees to help with a documentary about Quentins, a once-modest Dublin restaurant whose increasing success and sophistication over the past 30 years mirrors the changing fortunes of the city itself. Ella collects stories of customers who recall celebrating life's milestones at Quentins. These vignettes (about a man who learns he's to be a grandfather, a girl who finishes school with honors, and other regular folks) are meant to fill out the too-thin tale, but most of them end a little too neatly to be satisfying. Binchy doesn't exactly trade in suspense (can there ever be any doubt that a Binchy heroine will do the right thing? Or that goodness will ultimately be rewarded?), but this novel is more tepid than other works in her oeuvre. Still, readers who love hardworking, honest-living characters with strong values can get their fix here. (Oct. 28)

Forecast:Binchy lite this may be, but even so, it is sure to be a holiday favorite. The audio version (from Penguin Audiobooks) will be available simultaneously. BOMC, Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club main selection.

Reviewed on: 09/23/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
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