Read Chestnut Street Online

Authors: Maeve Binchy

Chestnut Street

BOOK: Chestnut Street


A Week in Winter
Minding Frankie
Heart and Soul
Whitethorn Woods
Nights of Rain and Stars
Scarlet Feather
Tara Road
The Return Journey
Evening Class
This Year It Will Be Different
The Glass Lake
The Copper Beech
Circle of Friends
Silver Wedding
Firefly Summer
The Lilac Bus
London Transports
Light a Penny Candle
The Maeve Binchy Writers’ Club
Aches & Pains


Copyright © 2014 by Gordon Snell

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House LLC, New York, a Penguin Random House company.

Simultaneously published in the United Kingdom by Orion Books, an imprint of the Orion Publishing Group Ltd., a Hachette U.K. company, London.

Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House LLC.

Selected stories by Maeve Binchy first published in the following: “Star Sullivan” as the first chapter of
Star Sullivan
, copyright © 2006 by Maeve Binchy (London: Orion Books, 1996); “By the Time We Get to Clifden” in
The Return Journey
, copyright © 1999, 2009 by Maeve Binchy (London: Orion Books, 1998); “The Builders” as the first three chapters of
The Builders
, copyright © 2002 by Maeve Binchy (Dublin: New Island Books, 2002); and “Fay’s New Uncle” in
The Maeve Binchy Writers’ Club
, copyright © 2002 by Maeve Binchy (New York: Anchor Books, 2010).

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Binchy, Maeve.
Chestnut Street / Maeve Binchy. — First Edition.
      pages cm
  ISBN 978-0-385-35185-0 (hardback) —
  ISBN 978-0-385-35186-7 (eBook)
1. Families—Fiction. 2. Domestic fiction. I. Title.
PR6052.17728C53 2014
823’.914—dc23                 2013041009

Jacket illustration by William Low
Jacket design by Carol Devine Carson



The places Maeve created in her novels and stories—Knockglen, Castlebay, Mountfern, and so many others—became just as real for her readers as those of the real Ireland. In fact the Irish Tourist Board often had to explain to visitors that they couldn’t actually get on a bus or train to go and see them.

Chestnut Street, too, is fictional, but the Dublin portrayed there is very real: a city changing over the years in ways that come vividly to life in these stories of its residents and their families.

Maeve wrote the stories over several decades, reflecting the city and people of the moment—always with the idea of one day making them into a collection with Chestnut Street as its center. I am very pleased with the way her editors have now gathered them together as she intended, to make this delightful new Maeve Binchy book
Chestnut Street

Dalkey, Ireland

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.

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