27 February 2013

A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy

Thoughts and Reflections
I would never have chosen this book for myself. However, as it happened, I read the novel, beginning to end, and all out loud. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this novel. It seems that this was the perfect novel for the time, for a good read in early January. 

This novel is an exploration into why we are who we are, why we are the way we are, and how our experiences shape us. This novel explores the lives of a handful of characters whose paths cross in one way or another throughout the duration of the novel. All characters are connected to a new hotel in Stoneybridge. 

This book could easily been seen as fluffy and indeed it is an easy read. However, the novel is strangely profound. Never claiming to proclaim great truths about life or lives lived, the reader still explores a number of situations, both superficial and difficult, some with resolutions and others without tidy conclusions. Through each situation the reader learns more about the characters. I found myself enjoying getting to know these characters, this random bunch who are connected through a random holiday week in Ireland. 

The ending is decidedly upbeat for the most part, leaving the reading feeling positive and content with the lives of the characters. The sap in this novel comes in the sense of resolution discovered by most of the character through their contact with the hotel and its owner. Normally such an ending would irritate me. Not long ago, someone said to me that depth in fiction can only be achieved through depressing story lines. I would venture that Maeve Binchy challenges that premise. This novel offers a number of themes and situations worth exploring. She doesn't dance around difficult subjects, such as estranged family relationships, teenage rebellion, unexpected pregnancies, or shattered dreams and false love. The beauty of this novel is the resilience of the characters. Despite the hiccoughs in their personal lives and bumps along the way, they bounce back. 

All in all, I enjoyed this novel. I would recommend it as an enjoyable read that isn't complete fluff. The characters were certainly enjoyable to get to know and I found myself reading just a little bit more... and then a bit more... and then just one more section before putting the book down for the evening. It was certainly an enjoyable read. 

About the Author
Maeve Binchy was born in 1940 in Dalkey, County Dublin, Ireland. Maeve attended a convent school in Killliney before going on to University College Dublin to study History. After graduating, she worked as a teacher. She went on to work as a journalist at the Irish Times after her father sent the letters Maeve sent to him about her time at a kibbutz in Isreal to the newspaper. Then she began writing novels and short stories. In 2002, Maeve Binchy suffered a heart-related crisis. These experiences inspired her to write the novel Heart and Soul. A Week in Winter was published in 2012. She passed away in July 2012 at the age of 72.

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