Monday, May 20, 2013

A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy

I bought this book when it was first released a few months back and it sat on my shelf.  Not because I didn't think I'd enjoy it, but because I knew I would.  I knew this was my last Maeve Binchy read and I wanted to save it to savor it.  I've counted Maeve Binchy as one of my favorite authors since I first picked up one of her books back in my university days.  I've found her writing to be like sitting down with a good friend over a cup of tea and catching up on all the gossip of our friends.  So it was for me a sad day last July to learn of her passing.  I'm very grateful that her husband decided to let this book be published posthumously.
Now for the book.  The book is similar in style to Evening Class and Quentins.  There is a main character that is the connecting force between the other characters.  Each story is told separately and could hold up as a short story in itself, but the lives of each character do collide in some form.  In this book the main character is Chicky Starr, an Irish lady who has spent many years in America only to come home to the village of her childhood and take over Stone House, a large home that has been owned by the Sheedy sisters for as long as anyone can remember.  Chicky is taken in by Miss Queenie Sheedy, whose dream it is to turn Stone House into a small hotel, displaying the kind of glory she remembers from her younger years.
The remaining characters have some sort of connection to Stone house, either as a guest, relation or worker.  Each story has the kind of well developed characters you would expect of Binchy's writing.  The end result is charming and enchanting. 
Some say that this book is not Binchy's best.  I would disagree.  It does match up to her previous works, I just wonder if it just didn't get that final polish that it might have otherwise had if she had lived to see it in its final draft.  The book does have a satisfying ending and is well worth a read.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

The Painted girls is set in Paris in the late 1870's.  It is inspired by the real life story of Marie Van Goethem who was a ballerina that became the model for Degas' Young Dancer at Age 14.  Intertwined with Marie's story of survival is the story of her sister Antoinette.  The book alternates points of view between the two girls.  
The Paris of this book is not glamorous.  It is the darker, grittier side. The story of hard work, washerwomen, broken dreams and promises.
What I really enjoyed about this book was how the author was able to recreate Paris.  I could see it and experience it through her words.  The story of the sisters was emotionally sustaining and at times draining.  I would highly recommend this book for a book club.  It is worth reading.