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Chestnut Street

Cover of Chestnut Street

Chestnut Street

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.

This eBook edition includes a Reading Group Guide.
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.

This eBook edition includes a Reading Group Guide.
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    Dolly's Mother

    ~

    It was all the harder because her mother had been so beautiful. If only Dolly's mother had been a round, bunlike woman, or a small wrinkled person, it might have been easier for Dolly, this business of growing up. But no, there were no consolations on that score. Mother was tall and willowy and had a smile that made other people smile too and a laugh that caused strangers to look up with pleasure. Mother always knew what to say and said it; Mother wore long lilac silk scarves so elegantly they seemed to flow with her when she walked. If Dolly tried to wear a scarf, either it looked like a bandage or else she got mistaken for a football fan. If you were square and solid and without color or grace, it was sometimes easy to hate Mother.

    But only for a moment, and not real hate. Nobody could hate Mother, and certainly not the dumpy daughter that Mother treated like a princess. She always spoke of Dolly's fine points. Her lovely deep--green eyes. People will get lost in those eyes, Mother had said. Dolly doubted it---there was precious little sign of anyone looking into them for long enough to realize that they were green, let alone run the risk of sinking hopelessly into their depths. Mother always called on Father to admire Dolly's wonderful texture of hair. "Look," Mother would say excitedly. "Look at how thick it is and how healthy it is; we may well see the shampoo companies begging Doll to do advertisements for them." Father would look obediently and with some mild surprise as if he had been called to see a kingfisher that had just disappeared. He would nod eagerly to please his wife and daughter. Oh, yes, he would agree. A fine shock of hair, all right, no molting there.

    Dolly would examine her dull brown hair without pleasure. The only thing to be said in its favor was that there was a lot of it. And that was what Mother had unerringly been able to identify and fasten on in her extravagant compliments.

    All the girls at school loved Dolly's mother---she was so friendly they said, so interested in them. She remembered all their names. They loved coming round to the house on Chestnut Street on Saturday afternoons. Dolly's mother used to let them play with her old makeup. Ends of lipsticks, little, nearly empty pots of eye shadow, compacts almost worn away by dabbing. There was a big mirror with a good light where they could practice; all Dolly's mother insisted was that every trace of it be removed with cold cream and tissues before they went home. She managed to make them believe that this was what kept the skin healthy and fresh, and Dolly's friends enjoyed the cleansing almost as much as they had liked the painting of their young faces.

    Dolly's friends. Were they really friends, she often wondered, or did they just like her because of Mother? At school they didn't make much of her. After class Dolly often sat alone while others went off arm in arm. She was never the center of any laughing crowd in the playground, nobody chose her to go shopping after school, she was usually one of the last to be picked for any team. Even poor Olive, who was fat and had thick, whirly round spectacles, often got picked before Dolly. If it hadn't been for Mother she might have sunk without trace in that school. She should be very, very grateful that, unlike almost everyone else around her, she had a parent who was universally approved and liked. She should be grateful, and she usually was. She was happiest playing with her cat.

    Mother always baked a funny cake for the sale of work, not a big showy one that would embarrass you or a little mean one that would make you feel...

About the Author-
  • Maeve Binchy is the author of numerous best-selling books, including her most recent novels, A Week in Winter, Minding Frankie, Heart and Soul, and Whitethorn Woods, as well as Circle of Friends and Tara Road, which was an Oprah's Book Club selection. Married to Gordon Snell, she lived in Dalkey, Ireland, until her death in July 2012.

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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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