A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy

winterThis 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?

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Minding Frankie by Maeve Binchy

I love Maeve Binchy and was delighted to have a new-to-me one to read this past summer. That’s right, I read it that long ago. Oh well. What was I saying about it when I talked about it with friends?

Reading her books has me convinced that present day Ireland is a backwater.

Hmm….I seem to remember talking about this book a lot, but that’s the only proof I have of it.  So, what I remember is that this one is about a young man who had a one night stand approximately 8 months ago and thought no more of it.  Well now the woman is preparing to have her baby as well as to die from cancer. That’s right. She is in the hospital and knows that she will not be coming out, but her baby will.  Will the help of a kindly priest she finds the young man, Noel, and says she wants him to care for the baby.  And thus begins a whole long story of caring for the baby, figuring out his life, finding romance, and a whole bunch of busybodies who seem to want to take the baby away.  I don’t know what Ireland’s laws are like, but it felt so weird and old fashioned to me. More so than her other books. I had trouble getting past the fact that he was the baby’s father, legally and biologically, and in his right mind, and solvent, and yet a social worker is constantly coming by to count how many diapers he has in supply and continuously threaten him that if it’s not up to her standards the baby will just be taken away?? But if you can get past that giant flaw, the human stories part of the book are wonderful. And that’s the lovely Binchy touch.

 

Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy

binchyI love Maeve Binchy books-they are cozy, have happy endings, lots of interconnected stories, and all around charming.  Not to say that everyone and everything in them is happy and light-there are plenty of misunderstandings, broken hearts, nasty people, and more.  I think she writes good all around stories.  And she is 100% responsible for my belief that Ireland is a quaint and old-fashioned and naive place. [I know people from Ireland and they do not appear to have stepped out of a Binchy novel, but I persist in this belief.  We are hoping to travel there in a couple of years and I’m certain I am in for a rude awakening.]

I was absolutely delighted to discover that not only were there some connections and references to previous novels Quentins, Nights of Rain and Stars, and Whitethorn Woods, but one of the main characters turned out to be one of the main characters from Nights of Rain and StarsContinue reading

Nights of Rain and Stars by Maeve Binchy

nights.jpgI’d read this before so was delighted when my friend chose it for our book club selection this month. This story is set in a charming charming village in Greece and brings together five characters from different countries and different backgrounds through a tragedy-they witness a pleasure boat catching on fire. These five spend that tragic day together at a restaurant atop a hill and it forms a bond between them. Like in Binchy’s other stories thereare characters with sad backstories and the characters all have very real flaws.

I’d love to write more, but I finished this a week ago and what else can I say? It’s a captivating story, she weaves the characters’ stories together well, Greece must be absolutely beautiful and one of the main characters is somewhat unlikable.

Whitethorn Woods by Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy books are just so cozy, much like Rosamund Pilcher’s. Interesting characters and lives and a good story and everything works out well in the end. Nowhere is this more apparent than in this, her latest novel. The woods of the title are the woods outside a small city which has grown from a quiet village to a bustling and overcrowded with traffic city. To combat this traffic problem a road is proposed, which would cut through the woods, bypassing the heart of the city. The only problem is that the woods whitethorn.jpgcontain a shrine to St. Ann, Mary’s mother. The devoutly religious people in this city are divided over the issue of whether or not the road should be allowed. Everyone at some point has prayed to St. Ann at the shrine for a cure, help finding a husband, a child, etc. This issue merely provides the framework for this book, which is comprised of chapters in which various residents of Rossmore tell their own life stories. Continue reading