I just read Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy, and I have to say, she's the master of a leisurely setup. For the first third of her books, I always wonder, Who are all these people? When is some action going to start? Do I have patience for this? Then for the rest of the book I'm completely enthralled and will stay up until 4 a.m. to finish it. (Which I did last night.)
I write short romantic suspense, where the expectation is to have a body on the floor on page one or at least some serious shooting. Action is the name of the game. I LOVE that as a reader, but sometimes feel rushed as a writer. I would love some time to introduce my characters to the readers until they knew my imaginary people well enough to truly care about them when the bullets start flying. Unfortunately, my genre doesn't have that luxury, although it does have many advantages that I do love.
Anyhow, that's exactly what Maeve Binchy does so well. She makes her readers spend time with her characters, so those characters seem like your best friend and family. When something then happens to them, you are utterly outraged and passionately involved, sitting on the edge of your seat until you finish the book and are assured that everything turned out well.
That is a very neat trick I'm going to remember if I ever start writing longer books!