How can you go wrong when you’re writing a book that takes place in a bed and breakfast high on the cliffs of a small Irish village overlooking the sea where you can hear the crashing of the waves from your bedroom window?
Unfortunately, I think Maeve Binchy went wrong with A Week in Winter.
I think her idea was clever. A Week in Winter is a story about seven people or couples who, under varying circumstances, visit a bed and breakfast operated by Stoneybridge native Chicky Ryan the same week one winter. In fact, it is the first week that the B&B is open for business. Each chapter is really more of a vignette – a separate story of these individuals and couples, a snapshot of their lives, background on how they ended up and the B&B and a bit about how each one impacts the others. I think the concept had potential.
Unfortunately, I found the characters to be entirely interchangeable and their stories excruciatingly boring. While their backgrounds were decidedly different, their dialogue was similar and the way their stories were presented to the readers was exactly the same for each character.
I have never read anything else by Maeve Binchy, so I can’t compare A Week in Winter to her other books. That is perhaps unfortunate, because I really didn’t enjoy this book very much. I would like to know if it was just this particular book or if I just don’t like Binchy’s writing.
I tried to look at Binchy’s writing as Irish storytelling. Everyone knows that no one can tell a story like the Irish. Her writing reminded me of someone sitting down and telling me a story. There was very little dialogue, for example. I’m just sorry to say that I didn’t find any of her stories interesting.
I found Winnie’s willingness to put up with her boyfriend’s wishy-washiness deplorable. And of course she could have gotten out of that vacation with his predictably obnoxious mother. Pleeeeease.
Have there ever been characters who were more self-absorbed and whiny than the Walls? I must admit, however, I did find the story line about their preoccupation and subsequent success with contests to be one of the more interesting of the book. I just didn’t like them.
John/Corry was a caricature as was Miss Nell Howe.
I even was annoyed at the story line surrounding Chicky Ryan. I simply didn’t find it realistic that she could carry out her charade of being a widow for her entire life.
The only character I found at all compelling was Anders. His conflicting feelings about duty and what actually made him happy seemed more realistic than any of the other characters.
And let’s face it, Ladies and Gentlemen, there is no bed and breakfast that could be so deliciously cozy and friendly and, well, perfect the first week that they are opened.
Or the second or third.
But perhaps I am overthinking the book. I really am not opposed to lighthearted literature. I have already professed my love for epic novels, and an occasional novel with romance at its core can be pleasurable.
I just found A Week in Winter to be way too predictable and uninteresting.
I am eager to see what others think.
A Week in Winter was published posthumously. Binchy was 72 when she died following a brief illness shortly before the book was released.
Since this is our book club read, here are some things to think about…..
Have you read any other Maeve Binchy books, and, if so, is the writing style the same? Do you enjoy her books?
Which character did you like the best? Which character did you like the least?
Do you think you could be happy living in Stonybridge, or a similar type town?
You don’t need to answer these questions; I just want to get you all started thinking about this book.
Anyone is welcome to contribute. We will discuss until Sunday night, June 8.
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