Stoneybridge is a small town on the west coast of Ireland where all the families know one another. 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), Chicky is finally ready to welcome the first guests to Stone House’s big warm kitchen, log fires, and understated elegant bedrooms.
John, the American movie star, thinks he has arrived incognito; Winnie and Lillian are forced into taking a holiday together; Nicola and Henry, husband and wife, have been shaken by seeing too much death practicing medicine; Anders hates his father’s business, but has a real talent for music; Miss Nell Howe, a retired schoolteacher, criticizes everything and leaves a day early, much to everyone’s relief; the Walls are disappointed to have won this second-prize holiday in a contest where first prize was Paris; and Freda, the librarian, is afraid of her own psychic visions.
Sharing a week with this unlikely cast of characters is pure joy, full of Maeve’s trademark warmth and humor. Once again, she embraces us with her grand storytelling.
This was my first Maeve Binchy book (which I sadly discovered was her last). I had no idea what to expect, and at first, I was disappointed. Chapter one, about Chicky, was really superficial — it was a shallow look at 30+ years of her life. There was no real connection and I didn’t think I’d keep going. It’s an omniscient point of view that I don’t usually care for because most contemporary writers don’t do it well.
Then I started chapter two, about Rigger, and realized Binchy knows how to write omniscient! It was another superficial look at a character’s life, but it works. In most contemporary novels, you get to know all of the intimate details of a few characters over a short period of time. In Binchy’s book, however, she paints broad, general pictures for many characters, then brings them all together.
I’ll be honest — I don’t usually care for omniscient POV. Classical omniscient includes so much description that I forget what’s happening. Most contemporary omniscient is just badly written third person that’s hard to connect with. Binchy, however, knows what she’s doing and I found myself not only enjoying the book but anticipating each new character’s story.
I’m not really sure who to compare this to because I haven’t read other books like hers, so I’ll say this: if you enjoy big-picture stories (instead of books that focus on one event) and if you’re looking for a clean read (a couple of swear words, but nothing gratuitous), I highly recommend this book. Pick up your copy here!