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A Week in Winter

A Week in Winter

4.2 334
by Maeve Binchy

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Delightful. . . . Radiates the warmth and charm that fans will recognize and relish.” —USA Today

“A hopeful, loving novel chronicling lives shaped by good deeds, small favors, and honest counsel along the rocky crags of the Irish coast.” —The Daily Beast

“A gratifying, blustery read full of rich characters, a sea-spray setting and a compelling plot that carries the reader from start to end.” —Wichita Eagle 
“Reading this novel is like ducking out of a cold rain into a fire-warmed pub filled with laughter.” —People

“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. . . . If you love Binchy's quiet stories, you will not be disappointed with this one.” —Huffington Post

“A restorative read.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Spell-binding. . . . Shows [Binchy] at the height of her powers.” —IrishCentral

“Maeve Binchy has once again created fully realized characters in quick, short strokes. . . . [The book contains] a philosophy of common sense and wisdom, both of which we’ve come to expect from Binchy.” —The Toronto Star

“All the characters spring to vivid life on the page, and all the stories are engaging.” —The Irish Times

“Heartwarming and spirit restoring. . . . 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

“Welcome territory for those looking for a feel-good read.” —Publishers Weekly

“Classic Binchy. . . . Peek[s] into the lives of characters from various walks of life brought together at a newly opened inn on the West Coast of Ireland.” —Kirkus Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This less-than-thrilling final work (after Minding Frankie) in the late Irish novelist’s prolific oeuvre tells the life stories of a cast of characters that show up for a week’s stay at a bed and breakfast called Stone House. The house is located in the idyllic village of Stoneybridge on western Ireland’s "wet and wild and lonely" Atlantic coast. Binchy begins with the hotel’s founder and proprietor, Chicky Starr, whose life hasn’t turned out the way she’d hoped. Several disparate narratives overlap and intermingle in various ways, as the reader views the characters——who each receive their own chapter——from the others’ perspectives. Binchy encapsulates the lives of her characters with such authority and so completely that there is little room for mystery or urgency. The reader gets the sense that all of the intrigue has been removed from the characters’ unique yet matter-of-fact lives. The novel, however, is welcome territory for those looking for a feel-good read, and as Binchy writes, no matter how awry their lives seem to go, "It was all going to be fine." (Feb.)
Library Journal
Located in western Ireland on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Stone House is run down and neglected. When Chicky Starr decides to buy the property and turn it into a hotel, the town thinks she’s gone crazy. The project brings unexpected peace and understanding to Chicky and her staff, and after months of tireless work, Stone House is ready for business. The first out-of-towners arrive with disappointment, disgrace, and doubt, but nearly all experience a catharsis on the cliffs and trails and in the gardens that can be found in the surrounding countryside.

Verdict Written in a style similar to that in Whitethorn Woods, this title features Binchy’s unsurpassed storytelling as she weaves together the lives and experiences of her characters. Finished shortly before Binchy’s death in 2011, this final offering will please many of the author’s fans, but some may be disappointed that it isn’t on a par with her earlier works. While it may not be Binchy’s best, this tale of love, friendship, redemption, growing up, and moving on is a lovely swan song for the beloved author. [200,000-copy first printing.]—Vicki Briner, City Coll. Lib., Fort Lauderdale, FL(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
The beloved, prolific Binchy's posthumous last novel is classic Binchy (Minding Frankie, 2011, etc.), peeking into the lives of characters from various walks of life brought together at a newly opened inn on the West Coast of Ireland. After 20 years in America and pretending she's been widowed by an American husband she never actually married, Chicky returns to her hometown of Stoneybridge to turn an elderly spinster's run-down cliffside mansion into an inn. To help renovate Stone House, she hires her childhood friend Nuala's son, Rigger, whose history of delinquency has made Nuala desperate to remove him from Dublin, where she's raised him as a single mother. Soon, Rigger is morally reformed and in love. To run the business end, Chicky hires her niece Orla, whose life in London has soured. Together, they get the place ready for the first week of paying guests: 34-year-old nurse Winnie arrives trapped into a vacation with her boyfriend's sophisticated, disapproving mother. A famous American actor takes advantage of a missed flight connection to escape the trappings of stardom for a week. Married doctors come for a respite from their crippling if unwarranted sense of responsibility for the terrible deaths they have witnessed. The heir to a Swedish accounting firm, who has set his father's expectations above his own love of music, comes to Stoneybridge to look up a musician friend. A husband and wife, whose lives together revolve around entering contests, consider their week at Stone House a disappointing consolation prize compared to the trip to Paris they didn't win. A retired girls' school principal receives the Stoneybridge vacation as a retirement gift she refuses to enjoy. And a clairvoyant librarian in love with a married man comes for a week to recover from her broken heart and avoid her second sight. While Binchy's stories are sketchier than usual, perhaps understandably rushed, her fans will find solace as hearts mend and relationships sort themselves out one last time.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.87(h) x (d)

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

From the Publisher
“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

Meet 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 more than twenty books, all of them best sellers. Several have been adapted for film and television, most notably Circle of Friendsand Tara Road, which was an Oprah’s Book Club selection. She was married to the writer and broadcaster Gordon Snell for thirty-five years, and died in 2012 at the age of seventy-two.


Brief Biography

Dublin, Ireland, and London, England
Date of Birth:
May 28, 1940
Place of Birth:
Dalkey, a small village outside Dublin, Ireland
Holy Child Convent in Killiney; B.A. in history, University College, Dublin, 1960

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A Week in Winter 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 334 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
blondelawdawgie More than 1 year ago
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.
Dilly More than 1 year ago
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.
BookwenchSB More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another great read from this wonderful author. So wish there could be more about these characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All the familiar elements, lovely and satisfying, she will be missed
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Classic Maeve Binchly- While reading you find yourself in Ireland- enjoying the scenery and totally involved with her characters
gracemary More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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
3Dachs More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Avid_readerRF More than 1 year ago
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.
SpareMe More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful book. I have read all her books. I'm sorry this will be her last one. I would highly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is to counter anyone who would actually rate a book according to bad delivery service !!!!!
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
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.
Drann More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous 12 months ago
Sue1900 More than 1 year ago
I've read this book and every other book that Maeve Binchey wrote. What wonderful stories she could weave!! Wish there were more...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I walked along the shore and felt the sea spray. I felt that I was around the table eating with the characters. I could imagine having tea around the fire. I want to stay and help Stonebridge become a great success!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Makes me want to book an impromptu trip Ireland!