Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Book Review: Chestnut Street

I am a big fan of Maeve Binchy and was saddened to learn of her death several years ago. Thus, I was excited to hear that a new manuscript had been found among her papers after her death. These were apparently stories which Binchy wrote from time to time and tucked away in a drawer for further revision at a later date. The stories are linked by the location of Chestnut Street in Dublin, but the characters themselves don't share connections at all. Each chapter reads as a short story, some more involved than others.

While the book received many stellar reviews on Amazon, I tend to think it is best to view these stories for what they are ... unfinished works, intended to be further refined and edited. If you've never read a Binchy book, certainly don't start with this one. Give one of her many novels a try first. But, if you are a devoted fan of her works, then you will find enough of Binchy's trademark storytelling ability and interesting characters to make the read worthwhile.

I tend to agree with Daneet Steffens, who reviewed this book for The Boston Globe. He writes, "What’s missing here is some of the overarching structure of Binchy’s storytelling magic to more strongly draw all of these fragments and tales together. That said, quite a few of the stories contain it in miniature, and there are plenty of instances of spot-on dialogue that capture Binchy’s characterizations honestly and humorously, reflecting an appreciation for others and an unyielding appreciation for the carnival of life." Binchy was a skilled writer and even her works not yet intended for public consumption are better fare than some other authors can offer up.

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