I finished Chestnut Street, that’s the best that can be said. Maeve Binchy books are not difficult reading; they are delightful character driven stories with a dip into the Irish landscape and culture. I really wanted to like this book. And basically, I somewhat liked it. Binchy’s final book, published posthumously this year following her death in 2012, is a collection of short stories–some only four pages long–centered around the houses of the not too well to do inhabitants of Chestnut Street, Dublin. Each story gives a peek at a different resident of Chestnut Street: Bucket, the window cleaner who goes everywhere on his bicycle and will do anything for his son. Dolly and her perfectly beautiful cheerful mother who may not be as perfect as she seems. Nessa whose Aunt has emigrated to America and brings back her manners, culture and opinions each year and may not be the woman she portrays herself to be.
Chestnut Street gives us a glimpse into our neighbors’ homes and lives. But like with most short stories, a glimpse is all we get. Binchy may have written these as testers for a more cohesive, longer story. The NPR review says Chestnut Street, “Has everything that makes Binchy special, in small delicious bites.” And there’s the rub. Reading all thirty-six short stories in a few sittings is tantamount to eating a pound of fudge in one go, sweet and sickly.
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