04 August 2013
By Maeve Binchy
Published by Orion Books
an imprint of the Orion Publishing Group Ltd.
First published in Great Britain in 2012
It's taken me a long time to write something about this book. Knowing it will be the last Maeve Binchy book I will review is making this an unpleasant task. I have read every single one of her books, her short stories, her plays; whatever she has written, I have read. I have spent many a day in the Ireland of my mind's eye - an Ireland only Binchy could write about.
Set on the cliffs of the west coast of Ireland, Stone House is where guests arrive to stay for a week in winter. Each guest brings their own story to the hotel, and the hotel itself has its own story - previously, it had been the home of the Sheedy sisters and is now owned by Chicky who worked herself to the bone to get where she is.
As with a lot of Binchy's books, the characters are allotted their own chapters, with some intermittent crossing over of other characters both old and new. The week brings John, an American movie star; Nell, a retired school headmistress; Freda, a librarian; Anders, a Dutch businessman; future in-laws Winnie and Lillian; and the prize-winning Walls, among others. It is Chicky's belief that the lives of her guests will change once they are settled in and discover that walking on the local cliffs and trails and spending time with other people is far better than modern life with all its so-called conveniences. In true Binchy style, the lives of the guests blend nicely with the lives of the staff. Not all of the stories are happy ones, but they are all interesting.
I enjoyed this book and wanted to savour every word. It's a lovely book, and if you're already a Maeve Binchy fan you will certainly enjoy it. If you are new to the Maeve Binchy world (shame on you!), I would suggest starting with the same book I did: Light a Penny Candle. I have only re-read two books in my life and Light a Penny Candle was one of them.
I will miss Maeve Binchy. She brought a lot of joy and introspection to my life as I discovered Ireland through her words.