Stoneybridge is a small town on the west coast of Ireland where all the families know each other. When Chicky Starr decides to take an old, decaying mansion set high on the cliffs overlooking the windswept Atlantic Ocean and turn it into a restful place for a holiday by the sea, everyone thinks she is crazy. Helped by Rigger (a bad boy turned good who is handy around the house) and Orla, her niece (a whiz at business), Stone House is finally ready to welcome its first guests to the big warm kitchen, log fires, and understated elegant bedrooms. Laugh and cry with this unlikely group as they share their secrets and—maybe—even see some of their dreams come true. Full of Maeve’s trademark warmth and humor, once again, she embraces us with her grand storytelling.
|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||5 MB|
About the Author
Maeve Binchy was born in County Dublin and educated at the Holy Child convent in Killiney and at University College, Dublin. After a spell as a teacher she joined the Irish Times. Her first novel, Light a Penny Candle, was published in 1982 and she went on to write over twenty books, all of them bestsellers. Several have been adapted for cinema and television, most notably Circle of Friends and Tara Road. Maeve Binchy received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the British Book Awards in 1999 and the Irish PEN/A.T. Cross award in 2007. In 2010 she was presented with the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award at the Bord Gáis Irish Book Awards by the President of Ireland. She was married to the writer and broadcaster Gordon Snell for 35 years, and died in 2012.
Visit her website at www.maevebinchy.com
Hometown:Dublin, Ireland, and London, England
Date of Birth:May 28, 1940
Place of Birth:Dalkey, a small village outside Dublin, Ireland
Education:Holy Child Convent in Killiney; B.A. in history, University College, Dublin, 1960
Read an Excerpt
Excerpted from the Hardcover Edition
Everyone had their own job to do on the Ryans’ farm in Stoneybridge. The boys helped their father in the fields, mending fences, bringing the cows back to be milked, digging drills of potatoes; Mary fed the calves, Kathleen baked the bread, and Geraldine did the hens.
Not that they ever called her Geraldine—she was “Chicky” as far back as anyone could remember. A serious little girl pouring out meal for the baby chickens or collecting the fresh eggs each day, always saying “chuck, chuck, chuck” soothingly into the feathers as she worked. Chicky had names for all the hens, and no one could tell her when one had been taken to provide a Sunday lunch. They always pretended it was a shop chicken, but Chicky always knew.
Stoneybridge was a paradise for children during the summer, but summer in the West of Ireland was short, and most of the time it was wet and wild and lonely on the Atlantic coast. Still, there were caves to explore, cliffs to climb, birds’ nests to discover, and wild sheep with great curly horns to investigate. And then there was Stone House. Chicky loved to play in its huge overgrown garden. Sometimes the Miss Sheedys, three sisters who owned the house and were ancient, let her play at dressing up in their old clothes.
Chicky watched as Kathleen went off to train to be a nurse in a big hospital in Wales, and then Mary got a job in an insurance office. Neither of those jobs appealed to Chicky at all, but she would have to do something. The land wouldn’t support the whole Ryan family. Two of the boys had gone to serve their time in business in big towns in the West. Only Brian would work with his father.
Chicky’s mother was always tired and her father always worried. They were relieved when Chicky got a job in the knitting factory. Not as a machinist or home knitter but in the office. She was in charge of sending out the finished garments to customers and keeping the books. It wasn’t a great job but it did mean that she could stay at home, which was what she wanted. She had plenty of friends around the place, and each summer she fell in love with a different O’Hara boy but nothing ever came of it.
Then one day Walter Starr, a young American, wandered into the knitting factory wanting to buy an Aran sweater. Chicky was instructed to explain to him that the factory was not a retail outlet, they only made up sweaters for stores or mail order.
“Well, you’re missing a trick then,” Walter Starr said. “People come to this wild place and they need an Aran sweater, and they need it now, not in a few weeks’ time.”
He was very handsome. He reminded her of how Jack and Bobby Kennedy had looked when they were boys, same flashing smile and good teeth. He was suntanned and very different from the boys around Stoneybridge. She didn’t want him to leave the knitting factory and he didn’t seem to want to go either.
Chicky remembered a sweater they had in stock, which they had used to be photographed. Perhaps Walter Starr might like to buy that one—it wasn’t exactly new but it was nearly new.
He said it would be perfect.
He invited her to go for a walk on the beach, and he told her this was one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Imagine! He had been to California and Italy and yet he thought Stoneybridge was beautiful.
And he thought Chicky was beautiful too. He said she was just so cute with her dark curly hair and her big blue eyes. They spent every possible moment together. He had intended to stay only a day or two, but now he found it hard to go on anywhere else. Unless she would come with him, of course.
Chicky laughed out loud at the idea that she should pack in her job at the knitting factory and tell her mother and father that she was going around Ireland hitchhiking with an American that she had just met! It would have been more acceptable to suggest flying to the moon.
Walter found her horror at the idea touching and almost endearing.
“We only have one life, Chicky. They can’t live it for us. We have to live it ourselves. Do you think my parents want me out here in the wilds of nowhere, having a good time? No, they want me in the country club playing tennis with the daughters of nice families, but, hey, this is where I want to be. It’s as simple as that.”
Walter Starr lived in a world where everything was simple. They loved each other, so what was more natural than to make love? They each knew the other was right, so why complicate their lives by fretting over what other people would say or think or do? A kindly God understood love. Father Johnson, who had taken a vow never to fall in love, didn’t. They didn’t need any stupid contracts or certificates, did they?
And after six glorious weeks, when Walter had to think of going back to the States, Chicky was ready to go with him. It involved an immense amount of rows and dramas and enormous upset in the Ryan household. But Walter was unaware of any of this.
Chicky’s father was more worried than ever now because everyone would say that he had brought up a tramp who was no better than she should be.
Chicky’s mother looked more tired and disappointed than ever, and said only God and his sainted mother knew what she had done wrong in bringing Chicky up to be such a scourge to them all.
Kathleen said that it was just as well she had an engagement ring on her finger because no man would have her if he knew the kind of family she came from.
Mary, who worked in the insurance office and was walking out with one of the O’Haras, said that the days of her romance were now numbered, thanks to Chicky. The O’Haras were a very respectable family in the town, and they wouldn’t think kindly about this behavior at all.
Her brother Brian kept his head down and said nothing at all. When Chicky asked him what he thought, Brian said he didn’t think. He didn’t have time to think.
Chicky’s friends—Peggy, who also worked in the knitting factory, and Nuala, who was a maid for the three Miss Sheedys—said it was the most exciting, reckless thing they had ever heard of, and wasn’t it great that she had a passport already from that school trip to Lourdes.
Walter Starr said they would stay in New York with friends of his. He was going to drop out of law school—it wasn’t really right for him. If we had several lives, well then, yes, maybe, but since we only have one life it wasn’t worth spending it studying law.
The night before she left, Chicky tried to make her parents understand her feelings She was twenty, she had her whole life to live, she wanted to love her family and for them to love her in spite of their disappointment.
Her father’s face was tight and hard. She would never be welcome in this house again, she had brought shame on them all.
Her mother was bitter. She said that Chicky was being very, very foolish. It wouldn’t last, it couldn’t last. It was not love, it was infatuation. If this Walter really loved her, then he would wait for her and provide her with a home and his name and a future instead of all this nonsense.
You could cut the atmosphere in the Ryan household with a knife.
Chicky’s sisters were no support. But she was adamant. They hadn’t known real love. She was not going to change her plans. She had her passport. She was going to go to America.
“Wish me well,” she had begged them the night before she left, but they had turned their faces away.
“Don’t let me go away with the memory of you being so cold.” Chicky had tears running down her face.
Her mother sighed a great sigh. “It would be cold if we just said, ‘Go ahead, enjoy yourself.’ We are trying to do our best for you. To help you make the best of your life. This is not love, it’s only some sort of infatuation. There’s no use pretending. You can’t have our blessing. It’s just not there for you.”
So Chicky left without it.
At Shannon Airport there were crowds waving good-bye to their children setting out for a new life in the United States. There was nobody to wave Chicky good-bye, but she and Walter didn’t care. They had their whole life ahead of them.
No rules, no doing the right thing to please the neighbors and relations.
They would be free—free to work where they wanted and at what they wanted.
No trying to fulfill other people’s hopes—to marry a rich farmer, in Chicky’s case, or to become a top lawyer, which was what Walter’s family had in mind for him.
Walter’s friends were welcoming in the big apartment in Brooklyn. Young people, friendly and easygoing. Some worked in bookshops, some in bars. Others were musicians. They came and went easily. Nobody made any fuss. It was so very different from home. A couple came in from the Coast, and a girl from Chicago who wrote poetry. There was a Mexican boy who played the guitar in Latino bars.
Everyone was so relaxed. Chicky found it amazing. Nobody made any demands. They would make a big chili for supper with everyone helping. There was no pressure.
They sighed a bit about their families not understanding anything, but it didn’t weigh heavily on anyone. Soon Chicky felt Stoneybridge fade away a little. However, she wrote a letter home every week. She had decided from the outset that she would not be the one to keep a feud going.
If one side behaved normally, then sooner or later the other side would have to respond and behave normally as well.
She did hear from some of her friends, and had the odd bit of news from them. Peggy and Nuala wrote and told her about life back home; it didn’t seem to have changed much in any way at all. So she was able to write to say she was delighted about the plans for Kathleen’s wedding to Mikey, and did not mention that she had heard about Mary’s romance with Sonny O’Hara having ended.
Her mother wrote brisk little cards, asking whether she had fixed a date for her wedding yet and wondering about whether there were Irish priests in the parish.
She told them nothing about the communal life she lived in the big crowded apartment, with all the coming and going and guitar playing. They would never have been able to begin to understand.
Instead, she wrote about going to art-exhibit openings and theater first nights. She read about these in the papers, and sometimes indeed she and Walter went to matinees or got cheap seats at previews through friends of friends who wanted to fill a house.
Walter had a job helping to catalog a library for some old friends of his parents. His family had hoped to woo him back this way to some form of academic life, he said, and it wasn’t a bad job. They left him alone and didn’t give him any hassle. That’s all anyone wanted in life.
Chicky learned that this was definitely all Walter wanted in life. So she didn’t nag him about when she would meet his parents, or when they would find a place of their own, or indeed what they would do down the line. They were together in New York. That was enough, wasn’t it?
And in many ways it was.
Chicky got herself a job in a diner. The hours suited her. She could get up very early, leave the apartment before anyone else was awake. She helped open up the diner, did her shift and served breakfasts. She was back at the apartment before the others had struggled into the day, bringing them cold milk and bagels left over from the diner’s breakfast stock. They got used to her bringing them their supplies. She still heard news from home but it became more and more remote.
What People are Saying About This
“The late great Binchy’s last novel is an appropriately heartwarming and spirit restoring swan song. In classic Binchy-style, the gentle story is populated with a large cast of often eccentric, always endearing characters. . . Stone House, a country inn on the West Coast of Ireland serves as the cozy setting for these interrelated tales of love, loss, friendship, and community. . . . Pour yourself a cup of tea, put your feet up, and prepare to savor this bit of comfort food for the soul.” —Booklist
“Classic Binchy. . . her fans will find solace as hearts mend and relationships sort themselves out one last time.” —Kirkus
Reading Group Guide
The questions, discussion topics, and suggestions for further reading that follow are intended to enrich your discussion of Maeve Binchys’s novel A Week in Winter.
1. Why is Chicky attracted to Walter? Why does she defy her mother’s doubts and admonitions about going to New York [p. 6]? “Reality was, for Chicky, this whole fantasy world that she had invented of a bustling, successful Manhattan lifestyle” [p. 9]. Do Chicky’s deceptions blind her to Walter’s true character? Does she love him? What other feelings might explain her pleas to him to stay [p. 11]?
2. After Walter leaves, Chicky vows she will never go back to Stoneybridge. Is she motivated by pride and stubbornness or does her decision reflect realistic concerns about the reactions her return is likely to generate? How do her periodic visits home influence her feelings about her family and Stoneybridge [p. 15]?
3. Step-by-step, Chicky takes charge of her life in New York. What character traits help her succeed? Discuss Mrs. Cassidy’s observations when Chicky leaves for Stoneybridge after twenty years in New York [p. 22-23]. In what ways does Chicky’s temperament, as well as her skills, prepare her for life as an innkeeper?
4. In Winnie and Lillian’s antagonistic relationship, which woman initially has the upper hand and why? How does Teddy’s behavior affect their opinions and interactions? What do they learn about each other when they are trapped in the cave? What do they learn about themselves?
5. Why is John eager to hide his true identity during his stay at Stone House? What advantages does he enjoy as an actor and what toll has his career taken on his personal life? Do you think he represents a majority of celebrities? Are Orla’s insights about the nature of fame persuasive [pp. 155-60]?
6. Henry and Nicola are shaken by the deaths they have seen as doctors. Why have their attempts to create satisfying careers been futile? What does the prospect of practicing in Stoneybridge offer them both personally and professionally?
7. What does Anders’s story convey about the difficulties of making a choice when one is faced with a conflict between duty and desire? How do his mother’s and Erika’s actions and advice, as well as his relationship with his father, influence him? What aspects of his experiences in Ireland help him to clarify his goals? What does his conversation with Chicky reveal about the way we ultimately make decisions [pp. 226-27]?
8. The description of the Walls and their obsession with contests is at once humorous and touching. What does their story demonstrate about the foundations of a loving long-term marriage? How do their enthusiasms change and enrich the experiences of the group at the inn?
9. Nell Howe is the only guest unmoved by the charms of Stone House. What accounts for her resistance to the atmosphere at the inn and her critical opinions of her fellow guests? What do her conversations with Rigger [pp. 271-72] and Carmel [pp. 296-98] reveal about her and the reasons she is unable or unwilling to bond with other people? Does her stay at Stone House change her in any way?
10. Why does Freda try to ignore or repress the visions she has? How do they interfere with her everyday life and her hopes and plans for the future? Even without her special “feelings,” is she foolish to embark on a love affair with Mark? Why does she decide to tell a “group of strangers” [p. 323] about her psychic powers? Reread the predictions she makes [p. 324]. Which of them do you think will come true?
11. Talk about how Binchy introduces each of the guests at Stone House. How does she pique your interest in them? Which character makes the strongest first impression? Which one takes the longest to get to know?
12. Anders tells himself, “Problems don’t solve themselves neatly like that, due to a set of coincidences. Problems are solved by making decisions” [p. 224]. Discuss how the various stories in A Week in Winter confirm or belie this observation.
13. Minor characters are an important part of A Week in Winter. What do Miss Queenie, Orla, and Rigger and Carmel contribute to the novel? What insights do their behavior, attitudes, and ambitions provide into the connections as well as the conflicts between traditional and contemporary Irish culture and society? Why does Nuela refuse to see her son, Rigger? What makes her change her mind?
14. Binchy is well known for making the landscape of rural Ireland as vital as the characters in her novels. What descriptions of the countryside and the coast in the wintertime are particularly vivid or evocative? How do they help set the mood of the narrative?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Another Maeve masterpiece! Once again, she has managed to wind the stories of very diverse people into a cohesive yarn. If you've read other Binchy novels, you may have noticed that, in the last several novels she wrote, she's picked up characters and places from former books. Although in this book, those former characters and places are less a part of the current story, you'll smile as you recognize a few of them. Remember Quentin's in Dublin? It's still doing well! And Holly's Hotel in Wicklow? It's also continued to succeed - perhaps too much. You'll also find Fiona and a couple of her friends,visit St. Jarlath's Crescent, and even Rossmore. Yet you'll spend almost all of your time with this book in west Ireland, where you'll meet several new characters, each of whom has an engaging story to share - and you'll find yourself wishing to hear their next chapters! Like a fine chef, Binchy has treated her readers to a full-course meal, ending her career with a scrumptious dessert. And like all great chefs, she'll send you away with your mouth watering for the next meal - if only she were still here to prepare it!
BINCHY WAS THE BEST!!!! I have been reading the writings of Maeve Binchy since 1981 when I discovered her mastery of story telling whilst I was quite pregnant. This last book crafted by her is once again a masterpiece of wonderful fiction! She has interwoven new and previous characters into this novel with exceptional grace and wit. Once opened to the first page, you will find this very hard to put down until finished! And once again, as with all Maeve Binchy novels, it will leave you craving for more! Thank you, Ms. Binchy for the many years of enjoyment you have given me. You will be sadly missed.
I loved this book and am sad it is the last. Maeve Binchy was blessed with the ability to make her characters come alive. I also love the way places and people from previous books pop up. I hope somebody can suggest a similar author for me. Ms Binchy may be gone, but I'll always remember her with great fondness.
Ive read all of Maeve Binchy's books and I think A Week in Winter is one of my favorites. She has a way of drawing in characters from previous books that are easy to recall and she introduces us to new characters that we grow to love. Would love to visit a Stoneybridge for a week in a winter. May never leave. Sadly, this is our last treasure from Mrs Binchy and I will miss her and I have framed a post card that she sent years ago. Ive learned from her that for certain-everyone has a story and her characters are brought to life. Rest in Peace, dear lady. From Sandy Brown Poplar Bluff Missouri USA
Another great read from this wonderful author. So wish there could be more about these characters.
Have loved all of Maeve's books and this one-her last is a joy to treasure. Sad that she is gone and will not have us looking forward to her excellent way of captivating her readers and anxiously awaiting her next book
All the familiar elements, lovely and satisfying, she will be missed
This was her very best. I didn't want the story to end. Her last book before her death! I have enjoyed all her books so will start reading them again in a few years. Great book for discussion groups.
This was a great book. Her stories always made you want more. I loved the way some of the characters would show up again (and continue) in the next book. You could almost see some of the people in this book continuing on. It's a shame there won't be any more and I will miss her.
Classic Maeve Binchly- While reading you find yourself in Ireland- enjoying the scenery and totally involved with her characters
Maeve Binchy can "paint" characters in the most believable way. Her stories always give insights into the thoughts and actions of others. This is done in the most believable way.
I hadn't read any Mauve Binchy in years. When I heard she had passed, I thought I would order her last book. It was wonderful. I remembered why I had loved her books so many years ago. I think I will now fill in with some I had missed. She was her best at character study. Highly recommend. Polly
Maeve Binchy will be so missed by all who loved her work these many years. She writes so that the reader feels they are good friends with all her characters and can't wait to see what they do next. This book is a wonderful final legacy to this great Irish author. We meet and love the countryside and the people who inhabit it from Stoneyridge to Dublin. The story is one of so many people of all ages finding their walks in life and showing us the beauty of the wilds of the Irish seashore. Thank you Maeve for so marvelously completing the journey.
The best part of this book is the characters. Each chapter is devoted to a single character, and you really get to know them like old friends. But there is very little that actually ties the characters together, or to any real story besides staying at the same hotel during the same week. I wish there was more of a storyline weaved through the book that tied it all together.
While this last book of Maeve Binchy's was an excellant read, I found it to be somewhat similar to Rosamund Pilcher's 'Winter Solstice.' A B&B and how it was brought to be and the background of how the first weeks guests came to the B&B and how their week ends. I have read every single book of Maeve Binchy from Light a Penny Candle (I was quite young then and it was a Reader's Digest Condensed Book) all the way through to 'A Week in Winter'. Ms. Binchy never dissappointed me. She always drew me into her characters and to the Irish culture. God Bless Maeve Binchy. May she rest in peace. I will truely miss looking forward to future books.
This is a wonderful book. I have read all her books. I'm sorry this will be her last one. I would highly recommend.
This is to counter anyone who would actually rate a book according to bad delivery service !!!!!
A Week In Winter is the 17th novel by popular Irish author, Maeve Binchy, and was completed days before she died. It is the story of an old family home (Stone House) on the West coast of Ireland, which is turned into a hotel where guests find a warm welcome and the peace to face their troubles. Binchy’s strength is her characters and their interactions, and she gives a potted history of the crew (Queenie Sheedy, Chicky Starr, Chicky’s niece Orla, Chicky’s friend Nuala’s son, Rigger and his young wife, Carmel ) and the cast of guests (nursing sister Winnie and her formidable prospective mother-in-law, Lillian, American actor, Corry Salinas, doctors Henry and Nicola, Swedish accountant Anders Almkvist, competition aficionados, Ann and Charlie Wall, retired headmistress, Miss Howe and librarian, Freda) as she weaves their stories together. Along the way, Binchy gives beloved characters from many previous novels a small cameo or a mention, a device that always delights fans, who come to think of her books as a comfort, like a favourite pullover and a warm cuppa. These novels have that distinctly Irish feel and one can almost hear the Irish lilt in the dialogue. Binchy’s characters always have plenty of depth and appeal, and face real life problems and dilemmas. But for Binchy’s death, this could easily have become a series along the lines of Macomber’s Rose Harbour. Wonderful, as always.
It was difficult to conclude this book, completed a mere days before Binchy's death as I know this is the last delight I will receive from this quiet, yet wise author who has the ability to see others without judgment. As in so many of her other books, Binchy creates situations where her characters, often deeply flawed, survive and thrive. I wish Maeve Binchy had written the story of my life.
A Week in Winter was the first book by Maeve Binchy that I have read. I thoroughly enjoyed it although I kept wondering if something earth shattering or exciting was going to happen. It never did. It was basically a story of numerous interesting people who stayed a week in the winter in an Irish Hotel. I enjoyed it.
An invitation into the lives of a remarkedly different group of people who were drawn together for a week. Wasn't expecting to enjoy the book as much as I did. Loved the characters back story without imposing judgement for their actions. Now I've purchased several other books by the author to enjoy.