I've saved the best for last! I hope you've enjoyed this week of Irish book recommendations!
Stoneybridge is a small town on the west coast of Ireland where all the families know one another. When Chicky Starr decides to take an old, decaying mansion set high on the cliffs overlooking the windswept Atlantic Ocean and turn it into a restful place for a holiday by the sea, everyone thinks she is crazy. Helped by Rigger (a bad boy turned good who is handy around the house) and Orla, her niece (a whiz at business), Chicky is finally ready to welcome the first guests to Stone House’s big warm kitchen, log fires, and understated elegant bedrooms.
John, the American movie star, thinks he has arrived incognito; Winnie and Lillian are forced into taking a holiday together; Nicola and Henry, husband and wife, have been shaken by seeing too much death practicing medicine; Anders hates his father’s business, but has a real talent for music; Miss Nell Howe, a retired schoolteacher, criticizes everything and leaves a day early, much to everyone’s relief; the Walls are disappointed to have won this second-prize holiday in a contest where first prize was Paris; and Freda, the librarian, is afraid of her own psychic visions.
The literary world took a huge hit when it lost one of Ireland’s best and most beloved authors, Maeve Binchy, last year. But one shining light was that Maeve had completed her final novel, “A Week In Winter,” before her death, and what a beautiful tribute to this amazing author this final book is.
In her brilliant way of spinning a story, Maeve takes her readers to the west coast of Ireland to the village of Stoneybridge where hometown girl Chicky Starr has returned home to open a holiday hotel. As the story opens, readers are welcomed into the life of Chicky and the people who are helping her making her dream of creating a place of rest for others possible. There is Rigger, the bad boy who turns out to become a good man; Orla, Chicky’s niece, who is brilliant with figures and computer skills; and Miss Queenie, the matriarch of the house who spread her delighted joy in all the proceedings.
But it’s the guests who make their way to Stone House for its first week of business who make this story sing. John, the American movie star who is incognito; Winnie and her future mother-in-law Lillian (if they don’t kill each other first); Anders, the Dutch businessman who is facing a crossroads in his life; the Walls, the prize-winning couple who aren’t too pleased with their prize; Freda, the psychic librarian; and Miss Nell Howe, the most unpleasant retired school headmistress anyone has ever met. It’s this group of people and their individual stories that give the warmth and compassion that Maeve Binchy’s books are so famous for. There are even references to a few of the other characters from Maeve’s previous novels that make an appearance, although brief, in this tale.
The setting of the book is inspiring, the characters are personable and real, and the story flows from one chapter to another with such ease that it is a joy to read.
If an author’s life can have a cherry-on-top at the end of their life’s work, then “A Week In Winter” is certainly Maeve Binchy’s cherry!
Maeve Binchy is the author of numerous best-selling books, including her most recent novels, Minding Frankie, Heart and Soul, and Whitethorn Woods, as well as Circle of Friends and Tara Road, which was an Oprah’s Book Club selection. She has written for Gourmet; O, The Oprah Magazine; Modern Maturity; and Good Housekeeping, among other publications.
Married to Gordon Snell, she lived in Dalkey, Ireland, until her death in July 2012 at the age of seventy-two, shortly after finishing this book.
This book is from my personal library. I was not compensated for my opinion.