This book was published posthumously with a forward by the late writer’s husband, Gordon Snell. I was amused to read that readers had traveled to Ireland in search of the places mentioned in her books, which are fictitious, for I have intention of doing the same. Fancy eating at Quentins, the restaurant in Dublin which was prominently mentioned in her many books.
This book makes use of the same formulae from her other books – by combining short stories of different characters sharing the same background, either in a bus, a bed and breakfast, or Greek holiday, or in this case, a housing estate in Chestnut Street.
The characters here in Chestnut Street are made up of identifiable heartland characters you meet everyday at the supermarket or just around the neighborhood. That’s right, her book is about the mundane characters, very much like my classmates in my memoir class, who comes in looking like ordinary folks but bearing extraordinary stories of their lives.
The twenty-three stories collected here are heart-warming. Like Bucket, a window cleaner who, rightly or wrongly, finds excuse for his son because of his guilt of being a not so perfect father.
Then there is the amusing tale of a woman, who has the habit of categorizing men into birds. She falls in love with a vain peacock, wondering what her friend see in her husband, who was a bad-tempered, bald and molting eagle, unlike her own glorious multi-coloured peacock. Then she meets a man she had imagined as a penguin – small and fussy, who turns up describing her as a rainbow lorikeet.
What I like about her stories, which are simple with no difficult vocabulary, are that they teach us about life by holding up a mirror for the readers. Many stories have hidden morals, which the protagonist might not have learnt at the end but hopefully the reader would – those whom we judge on first impression often surprise us; the victim who wallows in self-pity will end up losing; the kiasu who wants to win, even at a hobby flower-arrangement class he took to reduce stress; the mother who felt saying nothing to her daughter despite seeing the glaring mistake she is about to make; Or the couple who allow a stranger into their organized life to discover the joy of spontaneity.
Can you see why she is my favourite author?