This is the last book Binchy wrote before she died last summer, which makes it rather sad. At least it was just as strong as her other books, and just as wonderful. And yes, all her books are super similar so I guess you could say she found the kind of story she likes to tell and stuck with it through her life.
The premise here is that a woman, Chicky Starr, returns to her home village on the west coast of Ireland. To the doubt and surprise of all Chicky is going to turn a big old stone house (Stone House) into an inn where people will come for a week’s stay and enjoy good food, company, long walks on the shore, and feel restored by the beauty of the place. The first part of the book is the build up to getting the house ready and telling the individual stories of Chicky, her friend Nuala, and Nuala’s troubled son Rigger. Then, once the house opens, you hear the story of each of the first guests. You read about how each of them ends up with this week at Stone House, and their own troubles and woes, and then how the house seems to work its magic on them. It’s all very straightforward with a laying down of the events as each story is told, yet it doesn’t just feel like an outline. And there was something rather satisfying about having each story told one at a time.
I really liked this a lot, though I would have loved an epilogue (though it’s all laid out so that you know what will happen.) As always, Binchy makes Ireland seem like the most old fashioned place in the world. Near the beginning of the book the year had not been stated and I thought it was the early 1950s. Imagine my shock when someone said “after all this is the nineteen nineties!” What?! A lot of the friction and drama comes from family secrets, unwed mothers, living in sin, a woman living on her own, etc. Also, one of the characters is a librarian and I have two friends in Ireland who are also librarians, and I’m fairly certain that library services are not as antiquated as she lays them out to be.
Note–yes indeed, this book shares the exact same title with a book by Marcia Willett, who has a similar cozy old-fashioned feeling and a shared readership. Why would they do that?