A Week in Winter
Every so often, I stumble upon a book that can be reviewed in one word. A Week in Winter is one of those books. The word? cozy.
Of course, reviewers never use just one word, and cozy doesn’t quite explain the entire plot. Basically, this is a book about the owner, staff, and guests at a new bed and breakfast in Ireland. Well, the bed and breakfast is new, but it’s in an old home. The books is begins with the owner, Chicky Starr, and then proceeds to her staff and the first week’s guests, telling each of their stories in turn. Each chapter/section sums up the origins and current situation of the staff member/guest, and then shows how their life is improved by either their stay or their new employment at Stone House.
Chicky herself is from the area but left when she was young to follow an American back to New York. The relationship didn’t work out, but Chicky couldn’t bring herself to admit that to her conservative Catholic parents, so pretended to be married for years while she lived and worked at a boarding house in New York, until her nieces were about to visit her – at which point she killed her nonexistent husband off in a nonexistent car crash. She then came back to Ireland at the request of Miss Queenie, the last of three sisters who owned Stone House. They all had the fabulous idea to turn it into a bed and breakfast for those who wanted a quiet week away.
And who should want a quiet weekend away? In my opinion (and that of everyone in my book club; we read this last month), everyone. Basically this is the best bed and breakfast in the world. First of all, it’s decorated just so and serves delicious food all the time. But more importantly, if you go there your major problems will be solved. Once everyone finds that out, this place is going to be booked solid.
The guests include an American actor who misses a flight and travels through Ireland on a whim, a librarian wronged by a two-timing man, and a woman who somehow gets hoodwinked into traveling with her boyfriend’s controlling mother. All of them leave better off in some way.
This probably sounds like criticism, but really it isn’t. Sure, the bed and breakfast as panacea is a little far-fetched. Sure, problems are solved a little too neatly (except for this one lady, Nell, who is obviously beyond hope if this B&B can’t save her). But I enjoyed reading about these people anyway, and there was something comforting about their resolutions in the Irish countryside.
When I was a child, I remember overhearing my parents as they defended their dependable habit of watching The Love Boat. They knew it wasn’t high art, but liked the closure of knowing that three couples with problems would have them all solved by the end of the show. A Week in Winter is exactly like that, and as a cozy comfort read, it’s top notch.
I believe I’ve only read one Binchy book before (Evening Class, years ago), but I think it was somewhat similar. Cozy and comfortable. A Week in Winter is unfortunately the last of her books, as she died in 2012. It’s a shame, really, because we could all use more cozy and comfortable now and then.