Archive for the ‘Maeve Binchy’ Tag

Time to Let Go   2 comments

Chestnut Street

Maeve Binchy died in 2012. Since then, two posthumously published works made their way to readers. And as much as I’d like to keep reading her poignant, if often overly-sentimental, stories, enough is enough. I previously reviewed A Week in Winter here. It was typical Binchy full of coincidences, lessons learned and colorful characters; it was fun to read. Unfortunately, I am less enthralled by Chestnut Street, a collection of unrelated vignettes – or chestnuts, if you will.

Like her more complete novels, Binchy’s characters reflect humor and insight into human failings and triumphs. The stories touch on lost loves, personal sacrifices and family relationships. However, the residents of this fictional neighborhood need further fleshing out. Obviously, that’s not going to happen.

The title, Chestnut Street, is what ties everything together, but the strands are too loose. The collection reads as if someone simply went through and identified a place to insert the name of the fictional Dublin road. It doesn’t work. All the characters share an address, but no one has a connection to anyone else. The stories are short, more like sketches. Just because they bear a faint semblance to her style, doesn’t mean they’re book-worthy. What’s next, a compilation of her shopping lists or recipe file?

Binchy was prolific. My suggestion is to read the works she completed, and if you have already done. Start over. That will be far less disappointing than trudging along Chestnut Street.

Chestnut Street
Two-and-a-half Bookmarks
Alfred A. Knopf, 2014
368 pages

Irish Storytelling   Leave a comment

weekinwinter

I’m a sucker for a Maeve Binchy novel. Yeah, I know her books are predictable, mushy and fast reads, but she gets me every time. Say what you will, Binchy is a marvelous story teller, and I was saddened to learn she died last summer. A Week in Winter was published posthumously.

Her last work has the requisite characters: independent women who are misled by handsome but unreliable men; ne’er do well young men who, despite the odds, turn their lives around; well-meaning parents who misunderstand their adult children; and, well, many more. For the most part, they are all quite lovely — young and old alike.

Chicky Starr left her family home on Ireland’s west coast as a young twenty-something, only to return some 20-plus years later to renovate an old mansion overlooking the sea as a hotel. Each of the book’s chapters focuses on a different character, while continuing the thread established in getting the hotel ready for guests. Of course, the guests figure prominently in the story. A few names from some of Binchy’s other works find their way into A Week in Winter, which only makes sense: Ireland is not that large a country.

Family relationships, friendships and learning to navigate life are the themes Binchy weaves into her novels; and the Irish landscape is always as important as its inhabitants in her hands.

Binchy has authored 22 books, of which two are nonfiction; I’m glad there are still several I have yet to read.

A Week in Winter
Three-and-a-half Bookmarks
Alfred A. Knopf, 2013
326 pages