"Come to live on Chestnut Street with Ireland's favourite author."
Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted April 13, 2014
Fiction | Women's Fiction Contemporary
This is a short story collection spanning the decades in
Ireland. The sharply observed characters and situations
each involve fictional CHESTNUT STREET in Dublin. Maeve
Binchy was a journalist and novelist and had become
Ireland's favourite author long before her death in 2012.
This is her final book, which was prepared by her husband
and her publisher from stories Maeve had written over the
years and kept 'for later'.
It's impossible to pick out a favourite from the many
shorts but I'll try to give a flavour of their content.
In 'Fay's New Uncle' a busy young woman discovers that an
uncle she barely knew has suffered major health issues and
can't live alone in his big house. As his next of kin,
she's presented with a sudden obligation. Besides the
chance to reconcile family differences, is there any way
they can both benefit from the situation?
In 'All That Matters' teenage Nessa is impressed by her
sophisticated aunt Elizabeth who holidays in Dublin. Being
a paralegal in New York, attending openings and shows,
sounds so glamorous compared to her own prospects. Nessa
begins to change her life but only after a sudden shock
does she discover that surface glamour is not all that
'The Cure For Sleeplessness' is passed on to Molly by a
wise friend. Writing down a good thing about her life, and
setting aside an hour at night to complete some small task
to improve her home hardly seems like a miracle cure. Will
she even bother trying?
In 'The Investment' Shona from Dublin goes to Arizona to
help her cousins run a store near the Grand Canyon. Her
parents want her out of the way of an unreliable boyfriend,
but Shona can't stop thinking of the man and plans to save
up her money to spend on him. She learns the hard way that
not all people are a good investment.
'The Builders' wryly shows student Bobby bringing his
washing home to be done by his mother every week, because
he lives with a feminist girl who thinks men should look
after their own clothes.
Each vignette of place and time is a pearl of a story, warm
and reflective. If you liked Maeve you'll love CHESTNUT
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
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 . . .
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