Yes, I've been to all of the Western States - I've been to Narnia - I've been to Tuscany - I've been in The Shack - by the Seaside - and countless other places. This month I again went for a visit to a wonderful B & B in Ireland. The visit took me to Stone House, the old home of the three beautiful Sheedy sisters, Beatrice, Jessica, and Miss Queenie. I just love a cozy B & B.
Stone House is in Stoneybridge, a small village on the coast of Ireland, a place fled in short order by Geraldine “Chicky” Ryan in order to follow a charismatic man to America, much to the great embarrassment of her relatives. The man wanders off after a short while, and Chicky is thrown onto her own devices (“she’s got guts altogether,” one character says of her), working and saving money, and gradually being forgiven by her family back home (she can’t bear how smug they’d be at learning the truth; she tells them he died in a tragic accident). Funny how no one ever learns the truth!
During a visit to Stoneybridge, Chicky is approached by the sole surviving Sheedy sister, Miss Queenie (“Two of the old Miss Sheedys had been carried away by pneumonia in the winter...I felt the pain of pneumonia also this winter! “The old person’s friend, it was called; it ended life peacefully for those who couldn’t catch their breath”. The idea born for Chicky’s savings to turn Stone House into an inn and advertising it as a peaceful destination for a week’s vacation by the sea.
Ms. Binchy presents a large cast of characters and manages them with mixed results. Indeed, there are many odd, complicated characters in this story.
1. Among them are a bad boy trying to be good
2. Two women in a struggle over loving the same man
3. A couple bereaved
4. A disaffected spinster,
5. A man caught between duty and desire
6. Another hiding out from a life that no longer works for him.
They, along with other characters, are people at crossroads in their lives. As varied as their issues might be they nearly all manage to find their peace during their week at Stone House. Oh, wouldn't it be loverly! All I want is a room somewhere
Far away from the cold night air
With one enormous chair
Oh, wouldn't it be loverly?
Lots of chocolate for me to eat,
Lots of coal makin' lots of heat.
Warm face, warm hands, warm feet
Oh, wouldn't it be loverly?
Perhaps I'll be visiting London soon!
back to Ireland ....This novel is very different from her former books in that there is not a smooth narrative arc from beginning to end. Instead of a unified story, A Week in Winter is written almost as a series of short stories, each focusing on the backstory of one character or team of characters, leading up to the point at which they arrive at Stone House and reach their Aha…moment!
It is bittersweet that I won't be visiting Ireland again with Maeve Binchy in a new story...but I will continue to find time to relax and enjoy her stories for many years to come as they are all worth reading more than once!