20 April 2013

Book Review: A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy

I had never read Maeve Binchy before and had no real intentions of starting, but I somehow ended up on a mailing list for Random House Audio, and now those good folks send me a few audiobooks each month. Or at least, for the last two months.  I sure hope it continues!

Knowing very little about the book or the writer, other than she died last year and wrote the book Circle of Friends, the movie adaptation of which I have seen, I didn't really know what to expect, beyond the vague notion of Something Irish. A Week in Winter is the story of several disparate characters who come together for a holiday week at a place called Stone House in the west of Ireland (A-ha! I was right!). Each chapter tells the story of a different character, sometimes beginning in childhood, sometimes picking up in adulthood, and the reader learns of their hopes/dreams/aspirations.  Something happens to each character, ranging in scale from mild to pretty intense, that, conveniently enough, only their time at Stone House can heal.

Some of the characters were quite interesting, especially Chicky Starr, the Irish woman who returns to her homeland after a few decades in the US, nursing a secret and looking for a way back to her roots.  It is she who purchases Stone House and turns it into a charming inn, despite having no background in the hospitality industry.  She entered into the enterprise so naively that I had to quite forcefully suspend my disbelief, but I enjoyed her character nonetheless.  I would have greatly preferred that the book followed her instead of devoting each chapter to a new character, incorporating the stories each new guest who stayed at Stone House in a more organic way.

The audio reader, Rosalyn Landor, was perfectly serviceable. I would have preferred a greater differentiation in accents, as the people from Ireland, America, England, and Sweden all sounded roughly the same, but she rendered her male voices pretty well (I find that voicing a gender opposite of one's own is the hardest to do convincingly, among the scores of audio readers I've listened to).

I don't think ever would have purchased this book to read, but I am often willing to listen to audio versions of books I would never pick up, so in that case I'm happy to have listened to it.  A Week in Winter is not the book for me, but I can think of a lot of people for whom it would be.  If you don't mind reading books with a constantly shifting point of view, and if you tend to enjoy stories where nothing truly terrible happens and it all works out in the end, this just may be the book for you.  In light of the events in Boston this week, that might hold a greater appeal than usual right now. 


  1. Maeve Binchy is one I haven't read either and after reading your review, I don't feel so bad about it! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. :)

  2. Reading Maeve Binchy's book are a welcome change for me now and then after consuming murder and mayhem in so many of the current best sellers...maybe being of Irish descent has its influence on me, too.


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