April 02, 2001 12:00 PM

by Maeve Binchy

To discover Maeve Binchy—as in her fine novel Circle of Friends—is to be charmed. To read some of her soppier efforts is to get over it. Even in an Irish accent, a soap opera is still a soap opera. Her latest work is a case in point: Dublin cooking-school classmates Cathy Scarlet and Tom Feather dream of starting their own catering business, Scarlet Feather, but they can’t find the right location. On an otherwise ghastly New Year’s Eve, Tom discovers the perfect space. Business that first year is full of tribulation as Binchy, who has said this will be her last novel, seems eager to toss in myriad characters and sub-plots for her finale. There are abandoned children, a thieving cousin, a miscarriage, a heart attack and heart-break. Then there’s the weepy dialogue: A girl tells her dad, “The day you…let me go without telling me that you loved me…killed any thoughts of love that I would ever have.” If it’s a long year for Scarlet Feather’s owners, it’s even longer for us. (Dutton, $25.95)

Bottom Line: Way overdone

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