A week in winterPublished posthumously, A Week in Winter is Irish author Maeve Binchy’s final novel. While it will never be classified as great literature, this gentle tale of human potential was a satisfying winter vacation read.

The book is really a series of sketches linked by the characters’ common interest in Stone House, a new ocean-side inn in the west of Ireland. Some—like Chicky, Rigger, and Orla—are involved in the development of Stone House; others—like John, Aidan, and Freda—are guests during the inn’s first week of business. In typical Binchy fashion, this coming together of troubled but essentially good people results in solutions to life problems and a renewed sense of purpose for almost all around. Some of the individual portraits are well developed, while others are less substantial.

I’ve had a soft spot for Binchy’s stories since I first started following her in the 80s. Taken together, they trace Ireland’s progress in the late 20th and early 21st centuries: from quaint and impoverished to booming and sophisticated, and more recently, less confident and more filled with regret at economic success handled poorly.

Binchy’s characters often struggle to make choices between still-strong traditions and ever-changing modernity; typically, the best solution is a compromise that champions personal success while celebrating true love, loyal friendship, and the importance of family and local ties. Her tales are sentimental, but also sincere; they acknowledge evil while making the way clear for goodness whenever narratively possible.

I’ll miss being able to pick up her next novel, knowing that a few days of cozy reading were ahead.