Fiction – paperback; Orion; 400 pages; 2005.
Reading a book by Maeve Binchy is akin to sitting in front of a roaring fire on a cold winter’s day with a box of chocolates and a bottle of red wine: cosy and comforting. Maeve Binchy is one of my guilty pleasures, although it’s been about a decade since I last succumbed to temptation.
Night of Rain and Stars is not strictly typical Binchy fare, mainly because it’s set in Greece (not Ireland) in current times (not the 1950s or 60s). But it still has heart-warming characters, each of whom is struggling with personal issues. First, there’s David a young Englishman on the run from his parents who want him to work in the family business; Elsa, a beautiful and kind (there’s always one of these characters in a Binchy book) TV journalist from Germany on the run from a lover she cannot trust; Fiona, a naive nurse from Dublin who’s hooked up with a violent boyfriend her family can’t stand; and Thomas, a Californian academic on sabbatical who is still hurting from a divorce in which he lost custody of his young son.
These four characters are thrown together after a shipping disaster in the harbour of the idyllic Greek village they are all visiting for the summer holidays. Within days they have forged firm friendships with one another and discovered that they are all on the run from problems at home. Together, with the help of two local residents — Andreas the elderly Greek taverna owner and Vonni the middle-aged expat Irishwoman who runs a craft shop — each person finds a solution they’d not ever anticipated.
Okay, it sounds a little soppy — and completely unrealistic (I mean, who makes instant friendships on a holiday?), but to be honest, I thoroughly enjoyed this lovely story which is about family relationships and the bonds of friendship. It’s an easy read, helped by ginormous-sized printing (perhaps indicating the “older” age group this book is likely to attract), but it’s a quick read too if you don’t mind stories without an obivous plot and a happy, relatively predictable, ending.
This book isn’t going to challenge you on any literary or intellectual level, but it doesn’t make any claims to do so. And sometimes it’s nice to read something completely escapist and “dependable”, isn’t it?