A co-read with the CE. One of us loved this one more than the other.
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.
Sharing a week with this unlikely cast of characters is pure joy, full of Maeve’s trademark warmth and humor. Once again, she embraces us with her grand storytelling.
This ebook edition includes photos from the landscape of A WEEK IN WINTER and a Reading Group Guide.
A favorite Irish author the world over was Maeve Binchy who wrote this book, her last, before her death in 2012 at the age of 72. The book became a tribute to her work spanning (according to Goodreads) 173 distinct works. Her distinctive storytelling style scored thousands of fans. This is my first experience with the author.
A Week in Winter tells the story of a large cast of characters, but stems from Chicky (Geraldine) Starr of Stoneybridge, Ireland. Chicky is a girl with wild ideas and meeting a young American with the same kind of free-wheeling ideas, followed him to America. When he left her with only the clothes on her back, she managed to find room, board, and employment at a boarding house and gradually saved money.
When an opportunity opens back in Ireland to buy an old “gentlemen’s home,” she is intrigued with the idea of turning it into a B&B, quaint, gorgeous views of the Atlantic, and good food at Stone House. But that doesn’t happen by herself, or the remaining sister of three who formerly owned the property. So begins the tale of gathering personnel and eventually the opening guests.
“Working all the hours that God sends us.”
The well-plotted tale reverts (sometimes years) to establish the backgrounds and lives of people who will eventually populate Stone House. There are outbuildings to restore and land that will accommodate animals and years of work ahead and in the meantime gather Rigger and Orla (a niece). Then proceeds to find the opening week’s guests; John, a movie star; Winnie and her future mother-in-law Lillian; Henry and Nicola, doctors; Anders, a businessman who prefers music; the Walls, celebrating their silver anniversary; Miss Howe, irascible retired school principal; and Freda, a psychic librarian.
Everyone comes damaged, at a crossroads, in conflict, unhappy, at odds, or seeking well-deserved peace and are then welcomed into the newly opened facility. Each new character(s) create a short-story that don’t particularly interact with the rest of the guests with the exception of a common breakfast or dinner. Miss Howe, never content anywhere having led a desperately sad and lonely life experiences no epiphany and leaves early. All the others have a great and life-changing week and sweeps the reader into a conclusion with just the slightest epilogue of each.
I just finished a book with a strong character study and almost the same number to keep track of, separated into their own stories, as this was done. The plot to rehab an old estate into an exclusive B&B offering an authentic Irish experience also vaguely familiar, although descriptions of the area conjure up real, well-developed characters with windy, salty faces, and overcoat weather in small atmospheric villages. This is not to say I didn’t enjoy the book. I did. The storyline keeps you reading–but it isn’t wholly new. 4/5 stars
A masterful representation of life during earlier times. Ms. Binchy has captured the essence of life in rural Ireland and family struggles. It opened many memories of my childhood and the inter-familial relationships and struggles my family experienced when I was a child.
Each of the characters could be members of my own extended family. Loves hoped for and hearts broken are coupled with basic behavioral issues from less than perfect role models. Her characters portray the very essence of problems faced by most people in developing relationships.
Running off to America to be with a man who expressed deep undying love for Chicky starts the saga. As we all know, love is fickle. Left alone after five months Chicky has to develop a story for the loss of a person who said he loved her. The theme is replete throughout the book. Men are not shown in their best light, but then again, men can be very fickle.
The central thread is a large property called Stone House outside the village of Stoneybridge. The property is refurbished by Chicky and her niece as well as bad boy Rigger. As the property is developed, so develops the strengths and weaknesses of the characters. Rigger is a young delinquent who turns his life around and becomes key to the success of Stone House. Each additional character faces their own challenges and lessons to be learned from life.
The overall impact of this novel is to embrace the effect of life itself. Everyone has challenges and struggles in life. The richer family near Stoneybridge spends a fortune only to fall upon hard times during a large business downturn. They wind up with a large subdivision of unsold houses and a diminished reputation as developers.
The overall impression I came away with was that all of us seem to have similar life experiences. As they worked to develop the property and create a successful business, their fortunes were actually the result of the effort put into helping each other as well as striving for success. Helping others achieve success develops our own karma. Stoneybridge ultimately succeeds because each character gives more effort to further the cause and others than pursue their own ambitions. Many of the male figures tend to be self-absorbed and selfish.
My hat is off to the author and her insights into family relationships and struggles. Thanks for the memories and refresher course! 5 stars
Genre: British and Irish Literary Fiction, Literary Sagas
- ASIN: B009MYARTO
Print Length: 418 pages
Publication Date: February 13, 2013
Source: Local Library Digital Loan
Title Link: A Week in Winter
Rosepoint Publishing: Four point Five of Five Stars
The Author: (Amazon author page) Maeve Binchy is the author of numerous best-selling books, including Nights of Rain and Stars, Quentins, Scarlet Feather, 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. She and her husband, Gordon Snell, live in Dalkey, Ireland, and London.
(Goodreads author page) Maeve Binchy was born on 28 May 1940 in Dalkey, County Dublin, Ireland, the eldest child of four. Her parents were very positive and provided her with a happy childhood. Although she described herself as an overweight child, her parents’ attitude gave her the confidence to accept herself for who she was.
She studied at University College Dublin and was a teacher for a while. She also loved traveling, and this was how she found her niche as a writer. She liked going to different places, such as a Kibbutz in Israel, and she worked in a camp in the United States. While she was away, she sent letters home to her parents. They were so impressed with these chatty letters from all over the world that they decided to send them to a newspaper. After these letters were published, Maeve left teaching and became a journalist.
Maeve married Gordon Snell, writer and editor of children’s books. When they were struggling financially, Light a Penny Candle was published, which made her an overnight success. Many of her books, such as Echoes, are set in the past in Ireland. Some of her later novels, such as Evening Class, take place in more modern times. Her books often deal with people who are young, fall in love, have families, and deal with relationship or family problems. The main characters are people whom readers can empathise with.
She passed away on 30 July 2012, at the age of 72.
©2020 V Williams