IT IS a sad story with a happy ending. We lost Maeve Binchy two years ago, but her millions of fans will be surprised and delighted to learn that there is one final treat in store from their favourite writer.
A new 400-page Maeve Binchy book, 'Chestnut Street', will be published around the world next month, on April 24.
The book is a surprise because when Maeve died in the summer of 2012 she left behind only one novel – 'A Week in Winter', which she had just completed. That novel was published in 2012 and was an international bestseller that Christmas. And that seemed to be that. Maeve's many fans resigned themselves to a future without her magical story-telling.
But Maeve had one final surprise hidden away for all the readers who had made her Ireland's bestselling writer ever. Over the years, Maeve had developed a habit of writing stories, which she would put away in a drawer with the idea that they might be useful some day.
The stories featured a number of different characters who all lived on an imaginary street in Dublin, called Chestnut Street. Every once in a while, between other projects, Maeve would get an idea and would write a story about one of these people.
Well, that future has now arrived. Her husband Gordon Snell has assembled the stories into the new collection which will appear next month.
In Maeve's imagination, Chestnut Street was where a wide variety of Dublin characters live – and this new book takes us behind their closed doors to meet them.
There is 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 fiance of whom no one approves; Melly, whose gossip about the neighbours helps Madame Magic, a self-styled fortune-teller, get everyone on the right track; and Dolly, who discovers more about her perfect mother than she ever wanted to know.
'Chestnut Street' is vintage Binchy, written with all the humour and understanding that are the hallmarks of her storytelling. A few of these have been seen before in magazines, the others are new. But it was always her intention to gather them together in book form one day.
Gordon confirms that 'A Week in Winter' was her last novel. "Maeve had just finished it when she died. Seeing it in print was bitter-sweet for me and all her family and friends, and readers. It was the last novel – there will be no more."
So this substantial collection of stories will be Maeve's last book.
Worldwide, Maeve Binchy's English-language publishers have agreed to bring out the book simultaneously, on April 24.
Her readers around the world will be counting down the days.