Light a Penny Candle

by

Author:  Maeve Binchy

Title:  Light a Penny Candle

Genre:  Women’s Lives and Relationships

Publication Date:  1982

Number of Pages: 592

Geographical Setting:  Ireland, London

Time Period:  World War II, Post World War II

Series:  n/a

Plot Summary:  During World War II, ten year old English girl Elizabeth White is sent to Kilgarret, Ireland to live with her mother’s former schoolmate in Kilgarret, Ireland.  There, reserved and shy Elizabeth begins a lifelong friendship with the vivacious daughter, Aisling O’Connor.  It is Aisling who teaches Elizabeth to have faith in life and convinces her that if you light a penny candle at church, your most sacred wish will come true.  Five years later, Elizabeth returns to London, armed with a new sense of independence and love of life.  She pursues a career in art, against her parent’s wishes and embarks in a no-strings attached love life.  Aisling, meanwhile remains in Kilgarret, longing to exploring the world.  She is courted by the son of Kilgarret’s wealthiest families but cannot convince herself he would make her happy.  She escapes to London to meet up with Elizabeth.   They experience their past and present meeting while they struggle when they realize they are both involved and in love with the same irresistible man and how they choose to deal with it.  Their friendship spans through the war and after, through the trials and tribulations of life, including sorrow, dreams, love, and betrayal. 

Subject Headings:  Friendship – Fiction, Women, Self-Discovery, World War II, Women – Ireland, The Forties (20th Century), Men-Women Relationships.

Appeal:   Character-centered, leisurely paced, heartwarming, homespun, vivid, detailed, flawed characters, domestic, engaging, poetic, multiple points of view, emotionally-charged.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book:  character-centered, heartwarming, engaging.

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors (why they are similar):

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah.  Inseparable best friends Kate and Tully, who despite completely different lives, have vowed to be there for each other forever. They have stayed true to this promise for thirty years, until evens and choices in their lives tear them apart.  This book’s appeal reflects the life-long female friendship that is similar to Light a Penny Candle.

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells.  
When Siddi inadvertently reveals some revealing things about her Southern childhood in a newspaper interview, her mother, Vivi, virtually disowns her. Vivi’s lifelong friends, the Ya-Ya’s, set in motion a plan to bring the mother and daughter back together using a scrapbook of childhood memories that they ask Vivi to put together.”   -Novelist Plus.    This story was chosen as a read-alike because it has multiple perspectives, is character driven, along with relationships that span a lifetime.

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin.  After a night of drunken partying, Rachel sleeps with her best friend’s fiancée.  Rachel is consumed with guilt and intense feelings for the finance, forcing her to make a difficult choice.
This suggestion has more dramatic readalike because it features a female friendship but in a raw, gritty way, set in present day  in compared to Light a Penny Candle.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Dear Helen: Wartime Letters from a Londoner to her American Pen Pal by Betty M. Swallow.   Between 1937 and 1950, a working-class Londoner and her American pen pal exchange letters.  The Londoner offers accounts on the Blitz and how World War II affected life in London.  This account gives the reader a look at what life could have been for the character Elizabeth if her mother did not send her to Ireland to live for the duration of the war.

The Story of Ireland: a History of the Irish People by Neil Hegarty.  A history of how Ireland has been shaped by outside influences through the past 2,500 years.   This book in particular touches when Ireland was neutral in World War II.

Austerity Britain, 1945-51 by David Kynaston.  This is the people’s history of post-World War II England as a social profile that links everyday lives to period events.  It pays tribute to the nation’s passionate dedication to survival and rebuilding.   After the war, Elizabeth and Aisling spends time in London.  This compliments the time period to give the reader a better sense of how life was during that rebuilding time.

Name:  Olivia Button

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