Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Light a Penny Candle” as Want to Read:
Light a Penny Candle
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Light a Penny Candle

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  15,457 Ratings  ·  652 Reviews
Evacuated from Blitz-battered London, shy and genteel Elizabeth White is sent to stay with the boisterous O'Connors in Kilgarret, Ireland. It is the beginning of an unshakeable bond between Elizabeth and Aisling O'Connor, a friendship which will endure through twenty turbulent years of change and chaos, joy and sorrow, soaring dreams and searing betrayals...

Writing with wa
Paperback, 832 pages
Published May 4th 2006 by Arrow (first published 1982)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Light a Penny Candle, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Marisa I read this novel first when I was 16. It is a true saga of teen age girls so there is talk of kissing, sex, etc. Binchy never goes into detail. It is…moreI read this novel first when I was 16. It is a true saga of teen age girls so there is talk of kissing, sex, etc. Binchy never goes into detail. It is written for a mature audience based on content (war, abortion, etc) and vocab(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
While I did enjoy Binchy's writing and her beautiful character development, the beginning of the book was far more enjoyable than the latter part which did just seem to drag on and on. I feel that this book would have served the reader a better experience with more enjoyment had it been broken down into a trilogy. More a 3.5 than a 4 but I always round up my star ratings. 😊
Tea Jovanović
Mar 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Ovo je prvi roman Mev Binči a ujedno i prvi koji sam pročitala... Ovom knjigom me je "kupila" i zadržala doživotno... :)
Sue Evans
Oct 01, 2007 rated it liked it
This was my first Binchy and I absolutely loved it until the last couple of chapters.
I felt perhaps since this was Binchy's first published book, maybe she struggled with how to end it. The main characters seemed to be "out of character" in the last few chapters and a lot of the way it ended didn't fit with the rest of the story.
Lydia  Corey
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-clubs
Wonderful! I laughed, I cried, and I was so sad when it ended! An amazing story of two friends who become as sisters and the lives they lead.
May 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Wow. This was…not what I expected from Maeve Binchy’s debut novel. I have read and enjoyed many Maeve Binchy’s works before this (I just counted - looks like I’ve read 15!), and I enjoyed most of this one, but was slightly disappointed by the ending. It felt like a rather more dark work than I was anticipating.

It was quite long - over 800 pages - but an easy read, chronicling the lives of 2 young girls as they grow up together during the war, turn into young women on opposite sides of the Irish
Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is long! 824 pages. I bought it, second- hand, in paperback and it was so thick that (having become used to reading on a Kindle) it felt quite uncomfortable to hold at first.
I’m an avid reader of crime fiction, and when the story opened with a ‘flash-forward’ in a coroner’s court, I found myself expecting a murder to occur. Eventually, I realised that it wasn’t that kind of story and I became immersed in the engaging saga of two women’s friendship.
Vivid characterisation really is the
Apr 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I find it hard to objectively review or even rate any of Maeve Binchy's books. I don't pick up any of her novels with the intent of exploring some deep philosophical or cultural questions. Instead, I approach each of her novels as an imaginary journey, a very long movie that plays out through words. The characters she creates in all of her novels are both realistic and engaging and Light a Penny Candle is no exception. Once again, I found myself breezing through the pages, so desperate to find o ...more
Jul 06, 2012 rated it liked it
I know all kinds of women who read Maeve Binchy. Friends and relatives all like her.


I think its partly because she writes so well about the Irish. She has a knack for showing what Irish Catholics do, believe in, think about etc.

“Light a Penny Candle” begins in the 1940's and ends in 1959. It tells of a very different era from our own. Now we counsel women to leave their alcoholic and violent husbands; then, Irish Catholic mothers told their daughters that it was their duty to stay with such
Nicholas During
I was pretty disappointed in this book overall. It starts off well, and I was at first enjoying it a lot. But though the writing has energy and drive, the themes never are really given their due, the characters are introduced and barely slip out of a form character for the rest of the novel (which is meant to be 20 years of their lives), there isn't really any consequences to their actions, and I felt like the whole things was a bit shallow.

But rather than being totally negative I'll note the t
Dec 31, 2008 rated it it was ok
I found this a very slow read and terribly predictable. All the characters were one-dimensional, either very good or very bad. And there wasn't a single likable male character. The ending was just ridiculous; solving problems by killing off the source of the problem. Most Maeve Binchy stories have much more interesting plots than this one. I am surprised that so many readers loved it.
Dec 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio, top-author
Another excellent family drama from one of my favourite cosy authors. We follow two girls growing up during and in the aftermath of World War II from girls to women in both Ireland and England.

This was her first novel and it's a little darker than others I've read but a very impressive first book with all her signature touches.

Strongly recommended to Binchy fans.

Annie Kaye
Feb 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
3.5 stars.

I won't go into the details of the book itself - other reviewers have done so. This is the first Maeve Binchy book I've read where I finished it and felt rather unsatisfied. I have become accustomed to (and a fan of) the way she spins a tale, weaves together the details, and above all exercises the patience to do the story justice.

However, the wheels seemed to come off the story, so to speak, in the middle of the final chapter. It felt like she got tired of writing it and wasn't sure
Aug 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books of all time.
Sep 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Hoewel dit boek wel iets anders is dan de andere boeken van Maeve Binchy die ik tot nu toe heb gelezen, heb ik er wel van genoten en vind ik het jammer dat het uit is. Het boek is iets minder vrolijk dan haar andere. Nu zat ik zelf ook in een wat minder vrolijke periode vanwege een overlijden. Dus wellicht paste het boek daarom wel bij mijn stemming. Het verhaal draait om Elizabeth. Je volgt haar leven, dat begint als een jong meisje dat vanwege de Tweede Wereldoorlog naar een gezin in Ierland w ...more
Apr 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
It's 1940s & Hitler is planning his war on England. To protect their 10 year old daughter Elizabeth, George White and his wife send her to Kilgarret, Ireland. Taken in by her mother's old school friend, Eileen O'Connor, & her husband Sean, Elizabeth quickly becomes inseparable from their vivacious daughter Aisling. 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, ...more
Oct 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
The first time I read a Bnchy novel, I was like, “Is this her best novel yet?” Oh, right. This is just one out of many. Reading another of her novel has not ruined my expectations of finding her words as moving and her characters as lively and real as those in the first I’ve read.

Really, it’s like, the people in the novel are not mere icons of fiction but they actually seem like you’re personally hearing their conversations. Every word the characters say is breaking my heart for the innate geniu
Maria Elmvang
Maeve Binchy's debut novel, and unfortunately it really shows. She hasn't found her own voice at all, and I kept thinking I was reading a Rosamunde Pilcher novel instead. Not that there's anything wrong with RP, I just missed the charm of Maeve Binchy's later books.

The thing I love about Maeve Binchy's books is that they're generally speaking comfort reads. There are exceptions of course, but as a rule people tend to be in a better place at the end of the book than they were at the beginning. Th
Sep 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of Elizabeth White and Aisling O'Connor. Elizabeth is sent to stay with Aisling's family in Ireland during the Blitz in London. The two of them grow to be best friends despite of, or perhaps because of the events that occur over the next two decades.

I can't really explain why I enjoy Maeve Binchy's books so much. The writing isn't particularly profound and her plots tend to veer toward extreme soap opera-iness. However, each and every one of her characters are so well-develope
Jan 06, 2011 rated it liked it
O! Maeve Binchy...Ireland's own Jodi Picoult!
If you prefer to not think too hard while reading; if you are amused by all things Irish; or if you've never experienced the Binchy formula, then you would probably enjoy any number of her books. Binchy, like Picoult, is best enjoyed in isolation of any of her other writings.

I believe this is one of her better books, but I am probably influenced by the fact that it was the first of hers that I read. It chronicles a couple of decades of friendship bet
Feb 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
"Light a Penny Candle" was one of those novels whose ending wrecked what came before, so I liked it until the ending. I liked the characters' distinct personalities and lives, and I've always liked books that change perspective every so often. (Some parts were told from the point of view of the main character Elizabeth, and others were told from the point of view of her friend, Aisling.) I don't necessarily recommend this book, but I wouldn't discourage someone from reading it, either, although ...more
Apr 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
I read this book in the Christmas break of 1983 and loved the warmth that flowed from the page. IN 1994 I saw Maeve speak here in Melbourne and her warmth and interest in her fellow human is as alive and real as her characters. She believes we each have a story that we should write. Her stories of her mother and father were truly hilarious. She usually publishes a novel every two years and I have them all. I reread them when I just feel the need to retreat away with something lovely.
Julia O'Malley
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book when I was 9 or 10, and I remember loving it. It was the first adult book I ever read, and it really helped shape my reading (and writing) interests. Reading it again, as a young adult in her early 20s, was a differently rewarding experience.

I love the characters and the way the story progresses through time, told primarily though two POVs. For the most part, the story and the characters were very consistent. This wavered a bit in Part Four, which was told at a much faster pace
Jennifer Somers
Jan 17, 2018 rated it liked it
My opinion of this book is all over the place. At times, when I was reading it, I thought it was so engaging and truly excellent. However, there were also times toward then end, when I threw the book across the bed, because I was so frustrated with the plot twist. It's set mainly in the 1950s, but doesn't really delve into the war. Instead it focuses on the friendship of two girls growing up in Ireland and London and also examines their family relationships. It made me very grateful I wasn't a w ...more
Pat Taylor
Mar 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I adore this book. I am an avid reader and this is my no.1!! A story told over decades, pre and post world war 2. it has everything. Too much to tell here. Try it pls. I read my copy at least twice a year and am still amazed by Binchys story. I have had to replace my copy many times as have loaned it out never to have it returned! Enjoy.
Mar 27, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found the enduring friendship in this story heart-warming. These two lived in different countries and had their own separate lives, yet when the chips were down, they were there for each other, instantly and with no questions asked. What more could one ask for?
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
What did I just read? This book is a whirlwind - perfect for the poolside.

(Mauve Binky has done it again. <-- for Zach)
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my first Maeve Binchy novel and the story was completely lovely - until the huge plot twist in the final chapter that made it seem like an entirely different book?! It was such a strange change in tone that I can't really recommend it, even though I'll still try other titles by this author.

Weird. So weird.
Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
It's been quite a while since I read a Maeve Binchy book. I've forgotten how she describes the beauty of Ireland. Such an engrossing read.
Apr 14, 2017 rated it liked it
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Around the Year i...: Light a Penny Candle, by Maeve Binchy 5 20 Jan 08, 2017 07:17PM  
Maeve Binchy 2016...: Things I had to look up in LAPC 5 12 Jul 04, 2016 05:44AM  
Maeve Binchy 2016...: Light A Penny Candle 7 14 Jan 18, 2016 10:05AM  
Maeve Binchy 8 58 Sep 19, 2013 06:30AM  
  • The End of Summer
  • Mirror, Mirror
  • Eden Burning
  • She's the One
  • The House at Old Vine (House, #2)
  • Dancehall
  • The Rector's Wife
  • An Outrageous Affair
  • Bad Girls Good Women
Maeve Binchy was born on 28 May 1940 in Dalkey, County Dublin, Ireland, the eldest child of four. Her parents were very positive and provided her with a happy childhood. Although she described herself as an overweight child, her parents' attitude gave her the confidence to accept herself for who she was.

She studied at University College Dublin and was a teacher for a while. She also loved travelin
More about Maeve Binchy

Fiction Deals

  • Mercy Among the Children
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Darkness There: Selected Tales by Edgar Allan Poe [Kindle in Motion]
    $1.99 $0.99
  • An Empty Cup
    $3.99 $1.99
  • I Like You Just Fine When You're Not Around
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Abby's Journey
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Underground River
    $12.99 $2.99
  • The Word Game
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Fraulein M.
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Sister of Mine
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Bury What We Cannot Take
    $5.99 $2.99
  • Chomp
    $6.99 $1.99
  • Searching for Grace Kelly
    $15.99 $1.99
  • Bricking It
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Fifth of March: A Story of the Boston Massacre (Great Episodes)
    $8.99 $2.99
  • Starfish
    $10.99 $1.99
  • Thunder and Rain
    $9.99 $2.99
  • All Grown Up
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Light of Hidden Flowers
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Olive's Ocean
    $6.99 $1.99
  • Ecstasy
    $13.99 $1.99
  • The Elephant Keeper's Daughter
    $5.99 $2.99
  • The Virtues of Oxygen
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Home to Harmony (Harmony #1)
    $11.14 $1.99
  • Dog Crazy
    $7.99 $1.99
  • The Towers of Tuscany
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Noticer: Sometimes, all a person needs is a little perspective
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Who We Were Before
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Reluctant Midwife (Hope River, #2)
    $10.49 $1.99
  • Sin No More (Reverend Curtis Black)
    $10.39 $1.99
  • The List
    $7.99 $2.99
  • Lost & Found
    $5.74 $1.99
  • A Watershed Year
    $3.99 $0.99
  • Savage
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Designer
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Novice: A Story of True Love
    $10.74 $1.99
  • Go Away Home
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Leaving of Things
    $4.49 $1.99
  • Train I Ride
    $6.99 $1.99
  • The Weight of Ink
    $10.99 $2.99
  • We'll Always Have Paris: Stories
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Hidden Flower
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Greyhound
    $3.99 $0.99
  • Take Two (Above the Line, #2)
    $7.99 $1.99
  • The Heart Mender: A Story of Second Chances
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Lisette's List
    $11.99 $1.99
  • This Burns My Heart
    $10.99 $1.99
  • The Journeys of Socrates
    $10.99 $1.99
  • Annie on My Mind
    $9.99 $1.20
  • Oceans Apart
    $7.99 $1.99
  • An Absent Mind
    $4.49 $1.99
  • The Book of Ruth
    $18.99 $1.99
  • Smoke
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Where We Belong
    $5.99 $1.49
  • Cashelmara
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Dumplin' (Dumplin', #1)
    $7.99 $1.99
  • The Sisterhood of Blackberry Corner
    $7.99 $1.99
  • The Covenant
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Digging In
    $5.99 $2.99
  • The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
    $11.99 $12.99
  • The Traveling Vampire Show
    $3.99 $0.99
  • The Long Way Home
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Going Home
    $3.99 $1.99
  • In Between Days
    $7.99 $1.99
  • The Girl in the Glass
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Ungifted
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Julie of the Wolves
    $6.99 $1.99
  • Mrs. Saint and the Defectives
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Stiltsville: A Novel
    $10.99 $1.99
  • To the Bright Edge of the World
    $11.99 $2.99
  • The Patriots
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Flicker of Old Dreams
    $9.99 $1.99
  • All the Good Parts
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Food of Love
    $3.99 $1.99
  • So Long, See You Tomorrow
    $11.99 $2.99
  • A Scattered Life
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Every Ugly Word
    $3.99 $1.99
  • A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London's Flower Sellers
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Desert God (Ancient Egypt, #5)
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy (Bloody Jack, #1)
    $8.99 $2.99
  • The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds (Malayan #1)
    $3.99 $1.99
  • An Amish Buggy Ride
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Old Yeller
    $6.99 $1.99
  • The Secret Healer (The Secret Healer #1)
    $3.49 $0.99
  • Elizabeth Street
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Gates of Rome (Emperor, #1)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Unkillable Kitty O'Kane
    $4.99 $1.99
  • It Is Well
    $4.99 $1.99
  • A Sinful Calling (Reverend Curtis Black #13)
    $9.99 $2.99
  • On a Cold Dark Sea
    $4.99 $1.99
  • My Lady Viper (Tales from the Tudor Court #1)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Kings of Broken Things
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Edward Adrift
    $4.49 $1.99
  • The Restaurant Critic's Wife
    $3.99 $1.99
“In my experience ,lights at the end of the tunnel tend to flicker out .” 1 likes
“To heal would be to open the wound,examine it and forgive” 0 likes
More quotes…