Maeve Binchy is possibly the best-loved, best-known Irish author of all time. She has written 16 novels, 4 short-story collections, a play and a novella. Her novels have sold over 40 million copies and been translated into 37 languages. She could be called an “accidental writer”, as her writing career began when she wrote letters home from an Israeli kibbutz in 1963. The trip to Israel had been a gift from parents of her students in a Jewish school in Dublin where she taught them “French with an Irish accent” (Wikipedia source). Her father “cut out the ‘Dear Daddy’ bits” and sent her letters to an Irish newspaper which published them. When she tried her hand at novels, she wrote about the lifestyles she knew so well — plain, Irish people full of secrets, tensions, generosity of spirit, and faith (lost or found); people with an ability to face adversity then set on a course to find success and happiness, sharing their good fortune with friends and acquaintances along the way. Stories full of hope and possibilities. Several of her books, Tara Road, Circle of Friends, and How About You, have been made into movies.
A Week in Winter is centered on life in a small village on the west coast of Ireland called Stoneybridge and the life of one Chicky Ryan Starr who, after being romantically swept away by her American sweetheart, leaves for the United States despite the protests and condemnations of her family. When she is abandoned after eight short months of what amounts to life in an urban commune in New York City, Chicky runs into a bit of luck — she signs on with Mrs. Cassidy and learns all about running a boarding house. She had created a fantasy life in her letters home which she must now maintain in annual vacations home. When a niece and friend want to come to stay with her, panic sets in. She invents a dramatic death for her non-existent husband, heads home to Stoneybridge and helps an elderly spinster neighbour turn her somewhat dilapidated manor-type home into a winter retreat. The lives of various members of the community are given new life as the plans come into effect and when Stone House opens, each of the guests has a story of what has brought them to seek a retreat from the world at large and how all but one are healed and given a new beginning, just as Chicky and her staff have found a new lease on life for themselves. “We made a bit of our own luck.” says Rigger. “Perhaps,” says Chicky, “but we listened when people tried to help us.” A quick, read because Binchy’s style is so engaging: “it’s not so hard to be a writer. Just write a letter home.”