I love Maeve Binchy, if at any stage I need I reassuringly accomplished read I turn to her. For this Christmas I would recommend A Week in Winter. It is set in one of her familiar small towns on the west coast of Ireland where everyone knows everyone else, perhaps a bit too well. The main character Chicky Starr lives in a decaying mansion set high on the cliffs overlooking the windswept Atlantic Ocean and turn it into a restful place for a holiday by the sea, everyone thinks she is eccentric at best. But Chicky, who has just returned from something of a veiled existence in America, sets about rebuilding her life and she is not short of other eccentric individuals to help her – look out for the clairvoyant librarian among many others. This is Maeve Binchy’s last novel and has been described as sketchier than some of her other books but it still delivers a whole host of hearts mending and painful emotions being put to rest. Click here to learn more.
This story is only about a hundred pages long but it is dense and rich as a fruitcake and you will never be able to forget it. Its unnamed narrator is a young woman who is engaged as governess to two angelic children at Bly, a remote English country house. What initially seems a pastoral idyll soon turns harrowing, as she becomes convinced that the children are consorting with a pair of malevolent spirits. These are the ghosts of former employees at Bly: a valet and a previous governess. Events turn ever darker as she tries to protect the children but her efforts end in tragedy. The reader is left to determine the governess’s guilt or innocence. Whatever judgment we ultimately form of her, the book amply fulfills its pledge, laid down in the first few pages, that nothing can touch it in terms of sheer “dreadful—dreadfulness.” It’s the darkest, richest ghost story I’ve ever read. Will you be able to figure out if the ghosts are real? Click here to learn more.
It’s just not Christmas without Charles Dickens and most especially this classic, which gave us the fantastic character of Scrooge. We’re all so familiar with this tale of the melancholy selfish old man who believes homeless people should go to prison or into workhouses but it really does bear reading again. The descriptions of the cold, freezing weather are enough to make you shiver but your heart will be warmed by the turnaround of Scrooge’s outlook when he survives being haunted by three Christmas ghosts. The moral of this book is to be generous at Christmas and enjoy what you have – and also spend time with friends and family. What better message could there be? Click here to learn more.