Maeve Binchy's short story anthology, "This Year It Will Be Different", is fantastic from the first sentence! A mystery fan who seldom reads general fiction, I was blown away by how immediately her other compilations sucked me in: "The Lilac Bus", 1982 and "Dublin 4", 1984. It's clear why this lovely lady is Ireland's pride and famous the world over. Her passing this 2012 is too soon, my solace being I've only begun to experience her work. It remains, for all to enjoy.
I'm amazed to find I'm even more entranced by this 1996 collection of Christmas short stories! Maeve's inexplicable ability to captivate with commonplace chitchat has led me to declare time and again, that set parameters cannot judge the quality of books. Activity doesn't have to be fast-paced, there needn't be glorious scenery, one doesn't require a dynamic plot, likeable protagonist, and it needn't even be one's chosen genre. If you find yourself losing track of the pages and engrossed in what comes next, you love the book.
This author's skill for sympathizing with any character is legendary. I imagine her success at drawing us in comes from her one-to-one narration style, illuminating us about the protagonist's inner thoughts or making us privy to very natural dialogue. Plots are based entirely on the everyday nuisances and delights of regular people, which most of us relate to with ease. A reader of more exotic adventures, bears external witness to them. Maeve's home life settings have you wincing about completely believable situations, pondering how you would handle them. Since the protagonist's feelings drive the stories almost entirely, you are on their wavelength. You ride along in their mind, invested in whatever they're doing: from a jilted schoolteacher who fulfills a trip to New York, to welcoming home an uneasy stepdaughter.