Reviewing Three by Maeve Binchy: “A Week in Winter”, “A Week in Summer”, and “The Builders”

For my recent trip I purchased three Maeve Binchy stories for my kindle. I had wanted to read “A Week in Winter”, Ms. Binchy’s final book. “A Week in Summer” was a short story that was available. “The Builders” is more of a novella, written as part of an adult literacy campaign in Ireland. I enjoyed all three!

In the short story “A Week in Summer”, a married couple decide they will spend a week’s holiday one summer in order to recharge their middle-aged lives. They find themselves in the midst of a town-wide yearly festival where they meet new friends and discover new interests while rediscovering their relationship. This was a sweet story that was only 99 cents on Kindle!

Next I read the short book, “The Builders”. This less-than-one-hundred-pages novella tells the story of Nan Ryan, a middle-aged widow who takes an interest in the builders working next door to her.Who exactly were the people who had lived there and died so tragically? Who is fixing up the house and for what reason? What will the builders find? Nan builds a friendship with one of the men working there and together they analyze and discuss the situation. Another typical Binchy story – this one was written as part of an adult literacy campaign contribution.

Finally I read Maeve Binchy’s final book: “A Week in Winter”. I was so sad as I read this novel, knowing it was her last. It was typical Binchy fare: a young woman who has been unlucky in love returns home to Ireland and opens what is essentially a B&B in order to give folks a relaxing ‘week in winter’. Chicky, the proprietress, is the common link running through this story as each chapter focuses on one of the members of the household or one of the guests for that first week in winter in which they open. There are two doctors who are escaping a tragedy, a crotchety older woman, a young man who loves music, a librarian who has second sight, and several more. We get to know each one as their stories intertwine.

I have always loved Binchy’s books. I can’t say which is my favorite: “Light a Penny Candle”? “The Glass Lake”? “Evening Class”? Her older works I enjoyed more than her more recent ones (“Quentin’s” and onward). This is classic Binchy however. There’s a warmth and a goodness to these stories that, while I am sure some folks might find it cloying, gives me comfort. As I read the last page of this novel (or the last screen I should say, as it was on kindle), I had an image of Chicky standing at the door of her inn and Maeve standing next to her – welcoming travellers to their little bit of Ireland.

RIP, dear Maeve, and know that your stories live on!

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