Book Review: Chestnut Street

Chestnut Street
Published By: Knopf
Publication Date: April 2014
Page Count: 368
Source: Library
Audience: Adult - Short Story Anthology, Fiction

I have been on a Maeve Binchy kick these past few weeks. I love getting audiobooks of her titles I haven't read and listening to them on my work commute. Chestnut Street is a bit different than some of Maeve's other novels as its told in a series of connected short stories. Each of the stories features a current or former resident of Chestnut Street in Dublin, Ireland. Some of the residents appear in stories that focus on others, but many of them live only within their own segment of the book. It was fun to see how all of these different people lived their lives in the same space as the other characters.

Since I listened to this on audio, I wasn't able to take specific notes on each of the stories like I would have done if I had read this all on my own. As such, this review will be of the short and sweet variety.

As with all Binchy novels, I loved the characters. I became immersed in their lives and was often saddened to see their story end. The biggest problem I had with this novel is that I wanted more from some of the stories. Binchy could have easily turned each short story into a novel.

In addition to the characters, I loved the setting. I found myself dreaming of buying a house on Chestnut Street and walking the streets of Dublin. A quick google search revealed that the street doesn't exist beyond Binchy's imagination, but I am sure I could find something similar if I was truly in the market for some international real estate.

Chestnut Street was one of the collections that was published after Binchy's death. The stories contained in this book were written over the span of decades. It makes me happy to think of Binchy lovingly crafting this street and its inhabitants over years, thinking of them as old friends. I am so happy that her literary legacy continues to live on. She will always be one of my favorite authors.

Maeve Binchy imagined a street in Dublin with many characters coming and going, and every once in a while she would write about one of these people. She would then put it in a drawer; “for the future,” she would say. The future is now.

Across town from St. Jarlath’s Crescent, featured in Minding Frankie, is Chestnut Street, where neighbors come and go. Behind their closed doors we encounter very different people with different life circumstances, occupations, and sensibilities. Some of the unforgettable characters lovingly brought to life by Binchy are Bucket Maguire, the window cleaner, who must do more than he bargained for to protect his son; Nessa Byrne, whose aunt visits from  America every summer and turns the house—and Nessa’s world—upside down; Lilian, the generous girl with the big heart and a fiancé whom no one approves of; Melly, whose gossip about the neighbors helps Madame Magic, a self-styled fortune-teller, get everyone on the right track; Dolly, who discovers more about her perfect mother than she ever wanted to know; and Molly, who learns the cure for sleeplessness from her pen pal from Chicago . . . 

Chestnut Street is written with the humor and understanding that are earmarks of Maeve Binchy’s extraordinary work and, once again, she warms our hearts with her storytelling.