Ms. Binchy passed away in July 2012, shortly after she completed this book. A Week in Winter is a warm and cozy read that looks right into people’s hearts and lets us see intertwined lives touching one another. I am sad to say it wasn’t my favorite Binchy book. The book starts with Chicky who grew up in Stoneybridge, on the Irish coast, and ran off to America with a boy who came for the summer.
Chicky’s family thinks she’s a wicked fool to run away with him. So Chicky doesn’t tell them what’s really happening:
She wrote home week after week and believed in the fairy tale more and more. She started to fill a spiral notebook with details of the life she was meant to be living. She didn’t want to slip up on anything.
To console herself, she wrote to them about the wedding. She and Walter had been married in a quiet civil ceremony, she explained. They had a blessing from a Franciscan priest. It had been a wonderful occasion for them, and they knew that both families were delighted that they had made this commitment. Chicky said that Walter’s parents had been abroad at the time and not able to attend the ceremony but that everyone was happy about it.
In many ways, she managed to believe this was true. It was easier than believing that Walter was becoming restless and was going to move on.
Chicky does quite well, even after Walter leaves her. When her nieces talk about coming to visit, the kind husband of her letters suffers a tragic accident. And then, after some time, she goes back to Stoneybridge and purchases the Stone House on the water, using a “legacy” that is really her own hard-earned savings. She works with the last remaining Miss Sheedy (of the three sisters who had owned the house) to make it into a hotel.
Next, we take a look at Rigger, the son of one of Chicky’s friends. He gets into trouble, and needs to leave Dublin for awhile. He comes to work for Chicky, and meets a girl and starts settling down.
Then there’s Orla, Chicky’s niece, wanting some change after her best friend in Dublin gets married. She comes to work for Chicky, only for a year, which turns into more than a year!
Chicky is finally ready to welcome the first guests to Stone House’s big warm kitchen, log fires, and understated elegant bedrooms.
1. John, the American movie star, thinks he has arrived incognito.
2. Winnie and Lillian are forced into taking a holiday together….and get trapped in the cave when the tide comes in and must be rescued.
3. Nicola and Henry, husband and wife, have been shaken by seeing too much death practicing medicine…and leaving Cruise Ship Doctoring behind!
4. Anders hates his father’s business, but has a real talent for music.
5. Miss Nell Howe, a retired schoolteacher, criticizes everything and leaves a day early, much to everyone’s relief.
6. The Walls are disappointed to have won this second-prize holiday in a contest where first prize was Paris.
7. Freda, the librarian, is afraid of her own psychic visions.
With each person who comes to visit, we get to look at their life leading up to this momentous week, as well as at how the week changes them.
The story is gentle and cozy. No big earth-shaking moments, but lots of rejuvenating ones and life-changing ones for the guests involved. One guest does manage to shake off the charm of the place….the ornery Miss Nell Howe (Retired teacher) but most will leave the better for their vacation. My biggest complaint about this book….there were so many “Short Stories” about people’s lives. It seemed to me like Ms. Binchy knew this would be her last and she wanted to touch on each of the character she still had in mind for novels. Each short story could have been made into it’s own.
Thanks for the photo Mary Clare…the real deal!