Thursday, June 26, 2008

Review: Nights of Rain and Stars

Nights of Rain and Stars by Maeve Binchy
3.5 stars

Reasons for reading: read my first Maeve Binchy last year and loved it; Weather title for What's in a Name? Challenge and Irish author for Orbis Terrarum

Book description: In a tiny Greek village, tourists enter a hilltop tavern, alone and in pairs, for a casual lunch. But a sudden tragedy in the harbor below causes these perfect strangers to become unlikely friends as their lives begin to entwine.

Fiona left her nursing career in Ireland to be with the man everyone thinks is wrong for her. Elsa fled Germany and her high-powered television job once she learned what the man she loved was hiding from her. Thomas mourns his failed marriage and misses his young son in California, while David yearns to reconcile with his family in England without having to go into the family business. With the help of Vonnie, a middle-aged Irishwoman who lives in the village and is now a near-native, they find solutions - though not necessarily the ones they anticipated...

First line: "Andreas thought he saw the fire down in the bay before anyone else did."

My thoughts: I didn't enjoy this one as my previous Binchy book, Evening Class. It was still enjoyable, but I found that the first one had a lot more charm, largely because of its Irish ex-pat the Signora - she was just lovely and someone anyone would be glad to know. While Vonnie does help the 4 foreigners and is, at heart, very kind, she's much too blunt and very unhappy herself, so a lot of the time she wasn't much fun to read about.

Also, while the Evening Class folks are brought together by a desire to travel to Italy, the foreigners in this book are brought together by a tragedy - witnessing a fire in the harbour that kills over 20 people, local and tourists. While their integration into town life because of it was interesting and well done, it was still very sad.

Fiona, the Irish nurse who leaves Dublin to be with abusive, drunk/drugged, general asshat Shane was so very much the typical "But I love him..." (even though he's just beaten me up) drip that she was quite annoying. And he was so very awful it was really unpleasant to read his bits (as was the point, I'm sure). But Fiona's eventual realization of his asshattedness (that you knew was coming) was still a high point in the book.

The main theme was the importance of home and family and having to leave both to appreciate them. I found the story started to get more interesting when the focus shifted to what the families of the quartet were thinking back home (they had called home from Andreas' taverna to let everyone know they hadn't been on the boat). The travellers were all loved by the people at home, but no-one could manage to tell each other that due to misunderstandings or, in some cases, legitimate problems on both sides.

Of course, almost all of the stories have the happy ending I expected, but that's okay, there was enough going on (such as English David trying to teach Greek widow Maria how to drive, which was quite a hoot) to make it a good story.

Since this is for Orbis Terrarum, I guess I should say something about the author and her Irishness. I thought it was interesting that the 2 Binchy books I've picked to read, one on a recommendation and one basically at random, both had Irish women living for decades in the Mediterranean. Apart from a bit of Fiona's family back in Dublin, there wasn't a lot of Ireland in this book - it was all about the tiny Greek island and Binchy painted a great portrait of it. A quick look at Maeve Binchy's web site reveals she did travel to "farflung places" when she was younger, so perhaps that part of the world is a favourite of hers. But now she lives a few hundred yards from the house she grew up in and ends her brief bio with, "Why leave a good place?" So, like Fiona, I guess she's a traveler who came back to Ireland, happy to have gone but happy to be back.

While this one didn't blow my socks off, I still think I'm on the way to turning into a big Binchy fan. I've heard good things about Quentins...

Other reviews: (leave a link in the comments if you have one, too)


Suey said...

I reviewed this awhile back:

Julie said...

You should really read Circle of Friends. In my opinion it's her best.

tinylittlelibrarian said...

Julie - Thanks for the recommendation! I think I saw the movie years and years ago, but don't remember much about it.

raidergirl3 said...

It's hard to live up to Evening Class. I still quite enjoyed this one and the flavor of the Mediterranean.
Before you read Quentins, check the order of some other books, maybe at Librarything? Tara Road, Scarlet Feather and maybe one other one are connected with Quentins, but I think Quentins was the last one written.

tinylittlelibrarian said...

Thanks for the tip, raidergirl! I'd heard it had characters from other books, but wasn't sure where it fit in.

Anonymous said...

I came across your blog while googling for reviews of this book. I have it on my TBR list and after reading Quentins (which I don't recommend), I was wondering whether to go ahead with this book or not.

Good to know it's quite a nice read.

Btw, if you are looking for good Maeve Binchy, I would recommend Scarlet Feather or Tara Road.