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Nights of Rain and Stars - Maeve Binchy

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Author: Maeve Binchy / Genre: Fiction

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      15.03.2011 14:50
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      A lovely Read

      .Another enchanting story by Maeve Binchy. I like the way that she manages to interweave her characters in the stories that she writes. She makes them very real.

      The descriptions are amazing. When you first open the book you straight away get into the introduction of the characters and you could not help but get a warm feeling to them. All came together after a tradegy of a fire. So we expericence all of what was affecting them during this awful situation of the fire.
      We get to know them as individuals and why they were on this Island in the first place then as one reads on their friendships with each other and the close bond which they find from each other.Strangers coming together for a few days from four countries, England,Ireland,Germany and America.

      Fiona who came from Ireland is a nurse but met someone who her family were not happy with came over to this Greek Island with her boyfriend Shane he was certainly not a very nice person which caused concern with her new friends and family back at home.
      Then there was Thomas from America he was here on a sabbactical and also tries to keep in contact with his son but has concerns about his ex wife and her new husband.

      Elsa from Germany had left her successful life as a presenter and long term boyfriend who does not want to let her go how does she cope with that thats interesting to read.
      Finally David who is a very quiet shy individual who needed to get away and to make a stand to his Father who is too overbearing and forceful character.

      Then they all met Vonni who did come from Ireland many years ago and has spent a long time on this Island she made friends with them and even gave them advice which after a while they did come round too which you would have thought she would be pleased with.
      She did have a very troubled past which was she thought was long gone and buried but it was seemlingly was raising its ugly head again while she was friendly with these four people.

      Andreas who had a Taverna up on the hill from the harbour enjoyed the company of these four young people and was very close to Vonni. He also had a son who left on bad terms with his father and went to America . He was persuaded to write a letter to him will this letter prompt his son's return back to the Island.
      Gradually as you read on it drawers you into their lives and finally what they are going to do in the future making that big decidion to either stay on this Island or go back home to face what they ran away from.

      It was a book I found difficult to put down thoroughly enjoyed it like the easy flow of descriptions of characters there relationships which they have. Great read.

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        09.10.2009 18:41
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        A decent holiday read but her other books are much better

        I have been a fan of Maeve Binchy for a long time - ever since I discovered a glut of her books in my favourite secondhand bookshop in India. Since then, I have slightly outgrown her but perhaps this is because I haven't enjoyed her later books as much as the classic ones. What I've always loved about her work is that all the characters are well and thoroughly fleshed out and their conflicts are conveyed in a realistic way. You feel like these are real people who could very well live next door and when bad things happen to them (as they inevitably do), you can empathise with their struggles and pain because they feel so real and their troubles could so very easily happen to you.

        'Night of Rain and stars' is unfortunately not one of her best. Don't get me wrong - it's as warm and soothing as all her books but somehow the characters, their conflicts and their solutions don't ring as true as in, for example, Tara Road. The novel is about a group of strangers who meet at a little café in the fictional Greek tourist village on the day a local sightseeing boat catches fire and many lives are lost. The trauma of this binds them together and they become friends and spend time together over the next few days. Each of them is running away from something in their home country and their stories gradually emerge to each other and to Vonni, an Irish lady settled on the island for over 30 years. I think Vonni is meant to be a central and sympathetic character but to me she was just irritating - perhaps because she is a poor copy of Nora from some Maeve Binchy's other novels. To be honest though, none of the characters were particularly sympathetic and I think this is because there were too many of them for any of them to be truly fleshed out. They end up as caricatures and their stories are reduced to a few whiny moments, quickly wrapped up by the end of the relatively short novel. Also, I think, the fact that their problems are told as stories rather than experienced by them as we read dilutes their effects somewhat.

        On the whole it is a pleasant enough read, not too taxing and easy to put down to do something else. But it isn't a patch on the emotional rollercoasters MaeveBinchy is capable of writing and that is a real shame.

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          05.03.2008 17:16
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          A lively and interesting read.

          *****Midday at Midnight café.*****

          I haven't counted all my book reviews, but I expect they would amount to about a third of all my reviews. I know they are a mixture of the genres, maybe leaning mostly to the general fiction, but I do like to read some literature that I'd class as either romantic, or just pure escapism. I have a few favourite writers in that category and one of them is Maeve Binchy.
          Better known for her books set in her homeland of Ireland, she still manages to write some that aren't entirely type-set and this book falls into that category.
          If you haven't read a book by this author before, then you are either young or have probably passed by these as mere romantic fiction. I can't say that I had read many of her books before seeing the film, "Circle of Friends" in 1995. After that I read the book and started to add more of her books to my library. More later.

          *****The Story*****

          Tragedy strikes the small community of Aghia Anna- a small village on an un-named Greek island. From a tavern three miles uphill from the harbour, Andreas, the owner watches in horror as the tourist boat, the Olga, goes up in flames in the bay below. A small mixed party of tourists join him and watch in disbelief as they share his own grief at the loss of life.
          Throughout the rest of the day and into the starry night, they introduce themselves and as many shocked people will do, they start the beginning of a bonding process that will stay with them throughout their time on the beautiful Greek Island.
          Four strangers from Ireland, America, Germany and England, each with their own reason for being far away from their normal lives. Each with problems that will eventually catch up with them, but not until the island and some of it's colourful characters will weave a spell around them...so that nothing will ever be quite the same again.

          *****The Characters*****

          Normally I'd mention these in the plot summary, but as this is a character-driven story, I thought it only fair to allow them their own short descriptions. Binchy writes about characters in the main and this book is no exception.
          First there is Fiona, a young women travelling with her unsuitable boyfriend on a mission to escape her parent's nagging. Back in Ireland she was a nurse, in Greece she learns to become much more.
          Thomas, the American, is a quiet man whose sabbatical from a teaching post is also helping him to come to terms with a broken marriage and the problematic relationship with his young son.
          Elsa is a successful woman back in her homeland of Germany, but she, too is running away from her own personal demons.
          David is a young Jewish man from England, fighting against the inventible prospect of following his father into the family business.
          Each character comes to know Andreas, who has his own regrets about his only son who lives and works in America. Then there is Vonni, the charismatic and eccentric woman who seems more of a native than her origins from a village in Ireland, many years ago.

          There are minor characters, of course. Binchy's books revolve around her characters, less than any main plot. So there are some wonderful cameos from the rich world of ordinary Greek islanders. The grieving widow, Eleni, Andreas's brother, Yorghis, and the people who are on the fringes...the ones left at home...the main character's families.
          Without these there would be no story. But don't expect a fairy-tale ending where each character finds their heart's desire. Each one, even the character of Vonni, who seems to be so centred, must go through a brief Summer of learning about themselves before they can find any resolution to their lives. Of course, it's this that makes the book such a wonderful, warm experience and a damn good read.

          *****Prose*****

          I've visited many Greek Islands and each is a perfect gem in itself. Reading the description of the made-up village of Aghias Anna took me back to so many villages that could easily have been the blueprint for this one. I found myself remembering tiny café's that served traditional Greek food. Tavernas that seemed almost fifty years behind modern civilisation. Tiny coves and hidden bays, ever-changing blue and turquoise waters, sandy beaches and blue skies. Nights when it seemed that the stars were endless and magical.
          I also loved the attempts made by some of the tourists, the character of David in particular, to learn some of the language. The author shows how important this is to becoming more than just a noisy tourist. In my many trips to the Greek Islands, I always found that the people were so pleased if you tried to learn even a few words, and it's obvious that the author has done her homework.
          There is slightly less dialogue in this book than the normal. I didn't find this off-putting though. Binchy's dialogue usually carries the book so it was a nice change to read less. Even so, there are some wonderful passages that are so natural and a few that bring tears to the eyes. Well, it's her stock in trade and none of her readers would expect less than a box of hankies story.

          *****Summary*****

          I know what to expect from a Maeve Binchy book by now and wasn't disappointed by this one. It was a little slow to start and it did take a while for the warmth of the characters to come through. I suspect that's because of the different location and the character's different nationalities. As usual I was waiting for one of the characters to take over and this happened, though not in the usual way.
          I enjoyed the book and the ending was just right for the story. It's not a wonderful book, but then again, I read for a number of reasons and sometimes I want to indulge myself in something like a nice warm bath with candles surrounding me and a glass of wine on the side.
          Other people say that reading one of her books is like putting on comfortable slippers or taking a favourite walk. I don't think that's a bad thing. I read some deep books and I do need to come down from the heights and paddle in the sea under the stars at times.

          I paid £1.50 for my second-hand copy. You could probably buy this for about £3+ with postage from Amazon, or look around the shops as I do.

          My copy is in excellent condition and at 392 pages was an easy read. The print was quite large as well, which did help.
          As Always, thanks for reading.

          ©Lisa Fuller March 2008.

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            05.10.2007 11:13
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            Nice novel

            Despite her popularity I have never really been interested in reading a Maeve Binchy novel, mostly because the people that have recommended her novels to me are my Nana and other people around her age, so I though they just wouldn't appeal to me. After hunting around for something to read I read a few of the blurbs on Binchy's novels and thought I might bite the bullet and give one a go. I decided Nights Of Rain And Stars purely because it's set in a traditional Greek village and Greece (especially the small traditional places in Greece) is my favourite place in the whole world (well so far!)

            The Story
            The novel begins in the Greek village of Aghia Anna, where a tragedy is being witnessed from a hillside taverna. Down in the harbour below a tourist boat on fire, tourists and locals are among the dead. In the taverna, Andreas the owner can't quite believe what is happening, he is soon joined by 5 other people, a German girl , Elsa, an American guy, Thomas, David from Manchester and Fiona and Shane a couple from Dublin. As they sit and watch the events unfold beneath them friendships are forged (by some) and it becomes apparent that they are here in this village escaping something from home.
            As the story moves on we meet Vonni and Irish woman who has lived in Aghia Anna for over 30 years, she beomes an advisor and confidante to the friends but they also want to figure out her story, what bought Vonni here, etc.

            The Blurb
            Four strangers, with nothing in common but a need to escape, meet in a Greek taverna high above the small village of Aghia Anna. From Ireland, America, Germany and England, they have left their homes and their old lives, when a shocking tragedy throws them unexpectedly together.
            Fiona is a young nurse, trying to make her family understand her need to follow her own path. Thomas desperately misses his young son and fears his ex-wife will come between them. Elsa abruptly left her career as a television presenter, but someone from her past refuses to let her go. And shy , quiet David is determined to make a stand against his overbearing father. With these four is Andreas, the taverna owner who badly misses his son who left home nine years ago and has never returned.
            Nights Of Rain And Stars is the story of one summer and four people, each with life in turmoil. With the help of Vonni, a middle aged Irish woman who lives in the village and is now near native, they find solutions- though not neccessarily the ones they anticipated....

            The Cover
            I found the cover of this book very appealing. The hillside view of the Greek village and habour from a taverna table looks absolutely idyllic and made me wish I was there.
            On the back there is a head shot of the author.

            The Characters
            Andreas- When I first started reading Andreas is the first character mentioned, to be honest I didn't expect to him to have a big role to play in this novel, I though he was just a kind old Greek man but it turns out he's full of regrets after his son, Adoni moved to Chicago when they didn't see eye to eye and have not spoken since.
            Elsa- Although Elsa is a likeable character, strong and sincere I didn't really get why she was escaping to Greece, although her back story of her father abandoning her is key to the story, I just didn't get what the big deal with was Dieter to me her immediate past bore very little relation to the story.
            Thomas- Thomas escaped to Greece to get away from his ex-wife and her new beau, he also thinks he's giving his son Bill some breathing space and time to get used to having a new man in the house but Bill just wants his Dad.
            David- David is the only son to his successful father (and mother) and heir to the family business, unfortunately David doesn't want any part in running the business, which has caused conflict between himself and his parents, he'd rather teach or be a potter.
            Fiona And Shane- Fiona is a kind caring girl who is totally blinded by love, it soon becomes clear that Shane is a complete bully and that this is an abusive relationship. I could imagine myself shaking her shouting "get rid of that bastard". Her family (or anyone else for that matter) don't approve and want her to get rid of him. It obvious that he's using, all Shane is interested in is himself, drugs and money.
            Vonni- Vonni is a wise middle aged Irish woman that came to the Island years ago for the love of a man, she ended up losing it all but the community of Aghia Anna supported her, she seems to know what is best for everybody except herself.

            There are also some side characters like the family and friends back home but we learn about these people from our main characters.

            The Author
            Maeve Binchy is one of the most successful writers of recent years, apart from her novels she has written many short stories and a play, Deeply Regretted By..., she grew up in Ireland just outside Dublin and her current novel, Whitethorn woods, went straight to the top of the bestseller charts in the UK and Ireland.

            Other titles:
            Light a penny Candle
            Echos
            The Lilac Bus
            Firefly Summer
            Silver Wedding
            Circle Of Friends
            The Copper Beech
            The Glass Lake
            Evening Class
            Tara Road
            Scarlet feather
            Quentins

            To find out more about her visit : www.maevebinchy.com

            Overall
            I was really presently surprised and would read more of her novels now. The dialect was good and I loved all the references to Greek food, booze and enviroment. II enjoyed the dialect and liked the way that most of the story is told using dialect. On the downside it\'s not very humorous like the novel I'm used to reading but it isn't supposed to be. The word companionably is a bit overused though. The ending was bit a flat but at least that kept it more real. Overall it's a great story pf how friendships are forged and of love, loss and regret

            Chapters 17
            Pages 327
            RRP £17.99
            Published 2004
            www.orionbooks.com

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              29.10.2005 20:49
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              A very average read with some great characters and some very poor ones.

              As a caveat, I should probably explain that I have never been a fan of Maeve Binchy. But I also never disliked her. I read a couple of her books before reading “Nights of rain and stars” and I liked them, but they did not overwhelm me at all. So what did I think of this little part of her wide collection?

              By complete coincidence, five tourists vacationing in the Greek village of Aghia Anna meet at a taverna. Two are from Ireland, one from the United States, one from Germany and one from England. All five of them left home in search of something different, leaving friends and family behind.

              Fiona and Shane are from Ireland. Fiona is a young girl who is desperately in love with Shane, who was never accepted by her family – hence she had to leave home to be with him in peace. Thomas is from the United States. After he split up with his wife, he decided to take a sabbatical and sort out his life. His main confusion is with respect to his young son - Thomas is simply does not know whether it is better for him to stay away from his son or to be around him. For now he is giving his son space. Elsa, who had a successful TV career in Germany, abandoned her job and the love of her life because of a disagreement between the two of them – but will he be easy to get rid of? And David from England has escaped home because he found himself to be very different from what his parents would want him to be – he simply does not want to run his father’s business that he inherited.

              In Aghia Anna, these five individuals meet Vonni, and Irish woman who lived in the village for decades and turns out to be a very interesting influence on their lives. Will they listen to the advice she imparts, even though it may not be the solution they hope it to be? Or will they ignore her? Will they be happy? Or will their lives remain in turmoil?

              I must say, the distinctly average nature of this book is seen immediately when looking at the characters. Half of them are brilliant and the other half are bland. I found that Binchy had it easier with the female characters – Fiona came across as naïve and confused, Elsa as beautiful, successful and headstrong and Vonni as loveable, intelligent and motherly. I disliked Fiona, Elsa made me grin and Vonni was the one character I found some kind of attachment to. As for the male characters – they completely left me cold, to the extent that I could not even remember their names after putting the book down.

              During the course of the story, Binchy has scenes where she only deals with some of the characters – and then there are scenes where all characters are present. One of the problems I found with the book is that the jumping from scene to scene was sometimes a little rough. It just did not quite fit. It was not like a cliffhanger that made me want to read on to return to the story – it just left me unfulfilled and not caring about that part of the story.

              Another flaw with the book is definitely the predictability of it all. I do not think that any of the conclusions of the individual storylines on the individuals came as a surprise to me. And the ending was extremely unrealistic – heartwarming, but unrealistic. But what does one expect from this genre? Most books end in this kind of fluffy way.

              On the upside – there are worse books you could choose to read. It is an easy read, not particularly full of images that are overwhelming and beautiful, but enjoyable enough. It has 17 chapters – but the book is written in such a way that interrupting a read in the middle of the story and picking it up a little later is not much of a problem. And yes, in the end it is just one of those feel-good stories.

              So would I recommend it? If you are a Maeve Binchy fan, I am sure you will like this one, too. It is very similar in make-up and feel to books such as “Tara Road” and “Scarlet Feather”. If you generally do not like fluffy reads – this one is a lot less nauseating than some other books of this genre, so you may about be able to stomach it. But if you are looking for an unforgettable read – steer well clear. It’s not going to be that memorable night of rain and stars that you are looking for.


              ***Further information***

              Orion Books
              Pages: 392
              Price (paperback): £6.99
              ISBN 0-75286-536-6

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                08.10.2005 17:38
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                4 travellers meet in a taverna on a Greek Island where a disaster unfolds which bonds them together.

                This book is the latest book from a long line of fantastic novels from Maeve Binchy the Irish novelist. Her next novel is due out next year. She is well known for Circle of Friends which was made into a film starring Minnie Driver. Her other novels include Copper Beech, Tara Road, Evening Class, Firefly Summer, Scarlet Feather and Quentins.

                Most of her novels are set in Ireland a country very close to her heart. Some of the characters in her novels feature in more than one book which I like as you feel you know these people well. I received this book last year as a birthday present, I have the hardback book but it is now available as a paperback and retails in Amazon for only £3.99.


                The Plot
                ==========

                The book is set in the village of Aghia Anna in Greece. It centres on the lives of four characters who are on holiday and brought together after visiting a taverna high on the hillside. From this vantage point they watch a tragedy unfold below them in the village. The witnessing of this event somehow bonds them together and they build friendships. Each one has come to Greece to escape from their lives back home but find that they have to make decisions about their lives sooner than they expected.

                The Characters
                ===============

                Fiona is travelling with her boyfriend Shane. She is a nurse living in Ireland but has escaped her old life because her family do not approve of her choice of boyfriend. She feels a need to exert her own authority on her life but ends up trying to please her boyfriend who does not feel as strongly for her as she does for him. As the story enfolds she learns to stand on her own two feet but not in the way she had intended.

                Thomas is an American college lecturer who has separated from his ex-wife who is now living with their son and the new man in her life. He misses his son but every time he speaks to him never seems to manage to say the right thing and ends up sounding angry and bitter. He left America to try and give his son chance to settle into his new family but his son feels abandoned by his father and Thomas does not know what to do for the best.

                Elsa is the mysterious beautiful German televison presenter who left her job to escape someone from her past and has fled to Greece. She appears anxious not to let anyone find out where she is, but even in the small village of Aghia Anna the past can catch up with you.

                David is a quiet English man who has escaped his domineering father who desperately wants him to follow in his steps and take over in the family business. David finds it hard to tell his father that he doesn't want to go into the business. Events unfold that will force him to decide what he will do sooner than he expects.

                Alongside these main characters there is Andreas who is the Greek owner of the taverna. He is sad and lonely as his son left for America 9 years ago and they do not speak. Can the events of the past be forgotten and the two reunited?

                Finally there is Vonnie a middle-aged Irishwoman who has lived in the village for years and now seen by the locals as one of them. She has a secretive past which the locals do not speak about. She helps the four to sort out their problems but not in the way they expected. The four try to find out more about Vonnie's past and in doing so understand more about her and how her experiences can help them.

                My Conclusion
                =============

                I really enjoy Maeve Binchy's style of writing. She has a way of revealing her characters so you really feel as if you know these people and that you care what happens to them. Her books are about people, and not so much what happens to them but how they respond and change in response to their experiences in life.

                I have never been to Greece before but through reading this book I could picture myself there and watching the events unfold. I really enjoyed reading the book as the more you read the more you get involved with the characters. I would throughly recommend this book to anyone and especially to those who have enjoyed Maeve Binchy novels in the past.

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