Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy

Irish novelist Maeve Binchy died at age 72 almost exactly one year ago. If Wikipedia can be believed, her books outsold those of other Irish writers such as Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, W. B. Yeats, Seamus Heaney, and Edna O'Brien. Binchy finished A Week in Winter shortly before her death.

Like the author’s other books, this one features warmth and wit and an unlikely cast of characters (one is even a clairvoyant librarian). The main one is Chicky Starr, who long ago left Ireland and ran off with a good-looking American named Walter who turned out to be considerably less than she hoped for. She now has returned to Stoneybridge on the Emerald Isle’s west coast to open Stone House, a first-class inn.  Chicky has hidden her past; now she helps others bury or triumph over theirs.

There are a lot of characters in the book--perhaps a few too many.  Some are sketched quickly, and others have their own chapter. Sometimes when Binchy moves on to another character, it seems too soon and a reader can feel wistful. But many of the characters spend the opening week of Stone House together, either as a guest or in the employ of Chicky, and it is a pleasure to see them interact.

Like Chicky, most of the female characters have gotten into scraps during their life, but these women are strong and resilient. They have to be, as most of the men in this book are liars, cheaters, or abandoners. But in the end, relationships mend or no longer matter, and Stone House’s inhabitants enjoy their time together by the sea in the great Stone House.

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