Maeve Binchy’s novels appeal to some deep need for tidiness. The stories are all different, but they have the same structure: a lot of characters facing various problems share some connection; one of the characters sorts all the mess and solves the problems; the characters and the reader go away happy. These books provide the same satisfaction as the vacuum cleaner ads where the salesman dumps a huge pile of dirt and debris on the lady’s carpet and then vacuums it all up, leaving the carpet pristine.
Nights of Rain and Stars follows the same pattern, but is not nearly as satisfying as her other novels. The story involves four travelers visiting a Greek island who are drawn together when they witness a tragic accident. They all have problems and the problems all get sorted. But the book doesn’t live up to the Binchy model because nearly all the characters (three of the visitors and two of the locals) have the same kind of problem – a broken relationship between a parent and child. Because the problems are the same, the discussions are the same, and the solutions are the same. It makes the book repetitive and boring.
The only character who does not have a parent/child problem is the German television reporter conflicted over her sexual relationship with her boss. But that conflict is so muddled, it is difficult to tell what the problem is or what she wants. That plot line adds too little to shore up the rest of the story.
The romantic setting and solid storytelling are probably enough to satisfy diehard Binchy fans, but Nights of Rain and Stars is not her best, by a long shot.
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Nights of Rain and Stars counts as one of my books for my personal 2014 TBR challenge, the Mt. TBR Challenge, and the European Reading Challenge.