Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
Let me explain. I loved Circle of Friends, Maeve Binchy’s book about a group of young, Irish students in the 1950s and it remains one of my favourites and a real candidate for being read again, so when I was given Nights of Rain and Stars, I didn’t think I would go far wrong. I did go wrong, very, very wrong.
There’s nothing at all wrong with the premise of this book, four strangers meet in a Greek taverna, on the night of a tragedy in the village. Each is running away from something in their lives which they must face before they can move on. Standard romance stuff, a bit cliche maybe, but the book is so appallingly written that it was nigh on impossible to read. I did persevere simply because I’ve promised myself that if I start a book I will finish it, but had I not made that resolution I wouldn’t have bothered.
I don’t wish to speak ill of the dead, and I’m also a little sad, as I loved Circle of Friends so much, but I think the problem here was that Circle of Friends, being written in the 1950s was a time Binchy had actually experienced. She knew how people talked, the social etiquette of the time and things like that. IN this, it seemed like she was trying to write a contemporary novel with no idea of how young people today speak, and what is important to them. I would never say that anyone should only ‘write what they know’, but in this case I think she came unstuck. I found myself cringing at some of the dialogue and some of the motivations behind the characters were silly, things which were built up as important, but were actually just trivia and hardly something to run away to Greece for.
If you loved any of Maeve Binchy’s earlier work, then I’d definitely avoid this novel like the plague because, sadly, the memory of a writer who used to produce lovely books is now a bit tarnished…