Let me start by saying that Maeve Binchy is without question my favourite author. I was devastated when she died and the one consolation was that a new book was waiting. Maybe because I wanted it to be the most fitting swansong possible my expectations were too high, but I regret to say I was a little disappointed by 'A Week in Winter'. I'd love nothing more than to give it a glowing review - I genuinely want to love it - but there was just something missing compared to her other books. Others reviews have criticised the format (several strands interlinked rather than one cohesive 'story'), but I don't think that's the problem; Maeve Binchy has used that technique several times before and often to great effect. It's more that, while there are several likeable characters in the book, there isn't really one I could say I loved. Chicky Starr comes the closest, but she doesn't have the indefinable quality of a Benny Hogan, Cathy Scarlet or Clare O'Brien; that something that draws you in entirely and makes you genuinely sad when her story ends. It's also shorter than it could have been, with the ending feeling a little rushed and a key plot point never resolved.
I should emphasise that 'A Week in Winter' is far from bad - below par Binchy is better than most authors on top form. I might have given it four stars had anyone else written it. But it's hard not to judge an author on their track record, and I simply can't see myself re-reading this time and time again in the way I have 'Circle of Friends' and 'Light a Penny Candle'. Binchy fans should definitely still read this, but if you're new to her work, I'd recommend trying one of the other titles I mention first.