Like most of Binchy's books, A Week in Winter centers on a group of people who are all connected. This time, the connection is a town in Ireland called Stoneybridge, and an inn set up by the novel's central character, Chicky Starr. The book tells the story of why Chicky left and returned to Stoneybridge, how she set up the inn, and then shifts to the points of view of several members of the staff and how they end up working there, and then shifts again to the stories of the guests who arrive for the inn's first week.
It's been a while since I read a Binchy book, and this is, presumably, her last, since she died last year at the age of 72 after having published more than 15 novels which have sold 40 million copies worldwide.
In my mind, Binchy's strength has always been her strong sense of place -- Ireland -- and her characterizations. If you read this book you will feel like you know every rock and view in Stoneybridge, and will likely wish you could visit this bleak-but-mesmerizing place, perhaps even in winter (though you have to suspend your disbelieve just a little to believe that people would seek out Ireland in winter as a getaway. Sorry, Ireland.).
You will also feel like you know and understand many of the characters that people this book, who have all made choices and kept secrets and are struggling to live with them.
Where this book failed for me, unfortunately, was in the fact that it took so long to bring all of these characters together, I was expecting more to happen once they all did. Perhaps I've read too many PD James novels, but when I follow a group of people to an atmospheric place, I guess I expect a murder to happen, or at least something dramatic like terrible secrets being revealed. But that's not Binchy's way. Secrets stay safe and people get back their joy in simple things -- a long walk on a rocky shore, playing in with the local house band, hearing a good story told.
It is all a little too twee for me (to use an Irish expression), but if you love Binchy's quiet stories, you will not be disappointed with this one.
Which brings us to the read for week 10. Wow, where did the time go? The first couple of spots on the bestseller list are taken up with (a) books I've already read this year or (b) James Patterson's new book, and since I couldn't get past chapter 4 of his other bestseller this year (I suspect there will be more), I've gone a little further down the list and picked Matthew Quick's The Silver Linings Playbook. Oscar, Oscar!