Sadly, best-selling Irish author Maeve Binchy died soon after finishing “A Week in Winter.” This is vintage Binchy comfort reading to relish on a chilly winter’s day and as charming a tale as any Binchy has crafted.
The setting is the coastal town of Stoneybridge, where Chicky Starr has transformed a decaying seaside mansion owned by elderly Miss Queenie Sheedy into a restful retreat. Chicky, a native of the small town, had spent years in America:
Then came the news that Chicky Starr had come back from America and was going to buy Stone House. Miss Queenie would live there for her lifetime, and they were going to make the place into a hotel. . . .She would have her work cut out for her if she was to make any kind of a fist of that big sprawling house and turn it into a hotel where people would pay to stay.
Aided by Rigger, the reformed delinquent nephew of a childhood friend, by Stone House’s own Miss Queenie, and by her niece Orla, Chicky gets to work, opening the doors of her refurbished inn to a disparate group of guests for the first time for a week in winter:
Only a few days to go and the first guests would arrive. They were nearly full. Only one room remained unbooked. Orla and Chicky spent the evening going over the list of people. They were coming from Sweden, England, and Dublin. Some by car, some by train.
Every guest has a story. Stone House provides the perfect excuse for Binchy to weave the stories of these guests together into a seamless whole. There is Anders, the young Swedish accountant who is burdened by a sense of duty to stay in a job he dislikes. Will he find the courage to stand up for his own passions? A last-minute arrival, John, is a celebrated American film star who thinks no one has recognized him. What will happen when his cover is blown? Winnie and Lillian loathe each other, yet have forced themselves to endure the week for the sake of Lillian’s son Teddy – the man Winnie loves. Will they survive a week together? Nell Howe is as unpleasant a character as any Binchy has ever imagined: her fellow guests breathe a collective sigh of relieve when she heads for home a day early. The rest of the guests find that Stone House find that it is a special place, indeed:
A place that had not only lived up to its promise but had delivered even more.
It wasn’t exactly romance and stardust sprinkled all over them like magic, but was something deeper, like a . . . great feeling of peace.
When the week -- and the novel -- draw to a close, Chicky is ready to greet a new batch of guests – who would surely arrive with their own set of stories and secrets.
“A Week in Winter” is available on amazon.com and at your favorite New York bookstores.