Saturday, 5 April 2014

Review: Chestnut Street by Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy imagined a street in Dublin with many characters coming and going, and every once in a while she would write about one of these people. She would then put it in a drawer; “for the future,” she would say. The future is now.
Across town from St. Jarlath’s Crescent, featured in Minding Frankie, is Chestnut Street, where neighbors come and go. Behind their closed doors we encounter very different people with different life circumstances, occupations, and sensibilities. Some of the unforgettable characters lovingly brought to life by Binchy are Bucket Maguire, the window cleaner, who must do more than he bargained for to protect his son; Nessa Byrne, whose aunt visits from  America every summer and turns the house—and Nessa’s world—upside down; Lilian, the generous girl with the big heart and a fiancé whom no one approves of; Melly, whose gossip about the neighbors helps Madame Magic, a self-styled fortune-teller, get everyone on the right track; Dolly, who discovers more about her perfect mother than she ever wanted to know; and Molly, who learns the cure for sleeplessness from her pen pal from Chicago . . .

Chestnut Street is written with the humor and understanding that are earmarks of Maeve Binchy’s extraordinary work and, once again, she warms our hearts with her storytelling.

Hardcover, 384 pages
Expected publication: April 22nd 2014 by Knopf (first published April 1st 2014)     

Terri's Thoughts:     

I received an ARC of this book from Knopf via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  The expected publication date is April 22, 2014.

I must admit that it took me a few chapters to realize how the format of this book worked.  This is more like a massive collection of short stories centralizing around the occupants of Chestnut Street.  Once I got in to the flow of things I really started to enjoy the stories.

What I liked best about the book is also what I liked least.  I will start with the positive.  I liked the fact that I did not have to invest a lot of time in to each character.  It was nice for their stories to be short and then move on to the next.  This was great since I was reading it during a busy time and I knew that I could put the book down at the end of a chapter without missing too much when I came back to it.

On the flip side, because I was not emotionally invested in the characters I found that the book was too long for this format.  I think that it could have been easily half the size and perhaps have two books instead of one.  By the halfway point I was ready to move on to something different.

This was my first book by Binchy and I am going to invest some time in to her other works.  I think I would enjoy her full length novels.

About the Author

Maeve Binchy was born on 28 May 1940 in Dalkey, County Dublin, Ireland, the eldest child of four. Her parents were very positive and provided her with a happy childhood. Despite the fact she describes herself as an overweight child it was her parents attitude that gave her the confidence to accept herself for who she is today.

She studied at University College Dublin and was a teacher for a while. She also loved travelling and this was how she found her niche as a writer. She liked going to all different kinds of places such as a Kibbutz in Israel and worked in a camp in the United States. It was whilst she was away that she sent letters home to her parents. They were so impressed with these chatty letters from all over the world that they decided to send them to a newspaper. They were published. She left teaching and became a journalist. She still writes columns today.

Maeve married Gordon Snell who is also a published writer. When they were struggling financially it was then that Light a Penny Candle was published. She became an overnight success. Her books deal with relationship problems. Many of them are set in the past in Ireland such as "Echoes" and often deal with people who are young, fall in love, have families then have relationship or family problems that readers can identify with. The main characters are people you can empathise with. Some of her later novels have been brought forward to the present day to become more modern. Her cousin Dan Binchy is also a published writer.

She passed away on 30 July 2012, at the age of 72.


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