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Nights of Rain and Stars
by Maeve Binchy

Published: 2004-09-16
Hardcover : 304 pages
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Nights of Rain and Stars is a story of sudden endings and new beginnings, of friendships forged in the face of tragedy, and of the nights of rain and stars that fall and shine over a beautiful island in a sparkling sea.

In a small Greek island village, a group of travelers from around ...

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Nights of Rain and Stars is a story of sudden endings and new beginnings, of friendships forged in the face of tragedy, and of the nights of rain and stars that fall and shine over a beautiful island in a sparkling sea.

In a small Greek island village, a group of travelers from around the world and the local residents they encounter are brought together in unexpected ways when sudden tragedy strikes. In her inimitable style, Maeve Binchy shares with readers the lives of these strangers, learning their hopes, dreams, and fears as they move forward, forever changed by their experience.

Here is the story of old Andreas, the gentle taverna owner who has spent many years regretting the argument that drove his only son to America; Elsa, the beautiful German reporter who gave up her television career and the man she loves once she learned the secret he hid from her; and Fiona, the Irish nurse and dutiful daughter, who's gone off to travel with the man everyone says is wrong for her, determined to show them all—even if everyone is right. This is also the story of David, the only son who loves his family but not the family business; Thomas, the Californian who is able to cope with his recent divorce but not with sharing his son with his wife's new husband; and Vonni, who rashly left behind her life in Ireland to follow her true love to this village thirty years ago—and who is wise for everyone but herself.

A story that only Maeve Binchy could tell, told with the authenticity, charm, and grace that are her trademark, Nights of Rain and Stars will be rightly cherished by her millions of fans around the world.

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Andreas thought he saw the fire down in the bay before anyone else did. He peered and shook his head in disbelief. This sort of thing didn’t happen. Not here in Aghia Anna, not to the Olga, the little red and white boat that took visitors out to the bay. Not to Manos, foolish headstrong Manos whom he had known since he was a boy. This was some kind of dream, some trick of the light. That could not be smoke and flames coming from the Olga.

Perhaps he was not feeling well.

Some of the older people in the village said that they imagined things. If the day was hot, if there had been too much raki the night before. But he had gone to bed early. There had been no raki or dancing or singing in his hillside restaurant.

Andreas put his hand up to shade his eyes and, at the same time, a cloud passed overhead. It wasn’t as clear as it had been before. He must indeed have been mistaken. But now he must pull himself together. He had a restaurant to run. If people came all the way up the hilly path, they would not want to find a mad man, someone crazed by the sun fancying disasters in a peaceful Greek village.

He continued fixing the red and green plastic-covered cloths with little clips to the long wooden tables on the terrace outside his taverna. This would be a hot day, with plenty of visitors at lunch time. He had laboriously written the menu on the blackboard. He often wondered why he did it... it was the same food every day. But the visitors liked it; and he would put ‘Welcome’ in six languages. They liked that too.

The food was not special. Nothing they could not have got in two dozen other little tavernas. There was souvlaki, the lamb kebabs. Well, goat kebabs really, but the visitors liked to think they were lamb. And there was moussakas, warm and glutinous in its big pie dish. There were the big bowls of salad, white squares of salty feta cheese and lush red tomatoes. There were the racks of barbouni, the red mullet waiting to be grilled, the swordfish steaks. There were the big steel trays of desserts in the fridge, kataïfi and baklava, nuts honey and pastry. The chilled cabinets of retsina and local wines. Why else did people come to Greece? People came from all over the world and loved what Andreas, and dozens like him, could provide.

He always recognised the nationality of any visitor to Aghia Anna and could greet them in a few words of their own language. It was like a game to him now, after years of knowing the way people walked and reading their body language.

The English didn’t like if you offered them a Speisecarte instead of the menu, the Canadians did not want you to assume they were from the United States. Italians did not like been greeted with a Bonjour and his own fellow countrymen wanted to be thought of as important people from Athens rather than tourists from abroad. Andreas had learned to look carefully before he spoke.

And as he looked down the path he saw the first customers of the day arriving.

His mind went on to automatic pilot.

A quiet man, wearing those shorts that only Americans wore, shorts that did nothing for the bottom or the legs, but only pointed out the ridiculous nature of the human figure. He was on his own and stopped to look at the fire through binoculars.

A beautiful German girl, tall, tanned with hair streaked by the sun or a very expensive hairdresser. She stood in silence, staring in disbelief at the scarlet and orange flames licking over the boat in Aghia Anna bay.

A boy, also in his twenties, small and anxious-looking with glasses that he kept taking off and wiping. He was open-mouthed in horror, looking at the boat in the bay down below.

A couple in their twenties, exhausted after the walk up the hill, they were Scottish or Irish, he thought – Andreas couldn’t quite make out the accents. The boy had a sort of swagger about him, as if he were trying to tell some imaginary audience that the walk had not been difficult at all.

In their turn, they saw a tall man, slightly stooped, with grey-white hair and bushy eyebrows.

"That’s the boat we were on yesterday." The girl had her hand over her mouth in shock. "Oh my God, it could have been us."

"Well, it isn’t so what’s the point in saying that?" her boyfriend said firmly. He was gazing in disdain at Andreas's laced-up boots.

And then, there was the sound of an explosion from down in the bay and for the first time, Andreas realised that it was true. There was a fire. Not just a trick of the light. The others had seen it too. He could not put down to an old man's failing eyesight. He began to tremble and hold on to the back of a chair to support himself.

"I must telephone my brother Yorghis, he is in the Police Station... maybe they don’t know about it, maybe they cannot see the fire from down there."

The tall American man spoke gently. "They see it, look, there are lifeboats already on the way."

But Andreas went to make the phone call anyway.

Of course there was no reply from the tiny police station up the hill from the harbour.

The young girl was peering down at the innocent-looking blue sea where the ragged scarlet flames and the black smoke seemed like a grotesque blot in the middle of a painting.

"I can’t believe it," she said over and over. "Yesterday he was teaching us to dance on that very boat, Olga, he called it, after his grandmother."

"Manos – that’s his boat isn’t it?" asked the boy with the glasses. "I was on his boat, too."

"Yes, that is Manos," said Andreas gravely. That fool Manos with too many people on the vessel as usual, with no proper catering facilities but insisting on pouring drink into them and trying to make kebabs with some out-dated gas cylinder. But none of the people of the village would ever say any of this. Manos had a family here. They would all be gathered now, down by the harbour, waiting for news.

"Do you know him?" asked the tall American with the binoculars.

"Yes, indeed, we all know everyone here." Andreas wiped his eyes with a table napkin.

They stood as if transfixed, watching the distant boats arriving and trying to douse the flames, the bodies struggling in the water hoping to be picked up by smaller craft.

The American lent his binoculars to anyone who wanted to see. They were all at a loss for words; too far away to go and help there was nothing they could do, but still they couldn’t stop looking at the tragedy unfolding below on that innocent, beautiful, blue sea.

Andreas knew he should make some move to serve them but somehow it seemed crass. He didn’t want to leave what was left of Manos and his boat and the unsuspecting tourists who had gone out for such happy holiday cruise. It would be too commercial to start telling these customers about stuffed vine leaves and seating them at the tables he has been preparing.

He felt a hand on his arm. It was the blonde German girl. "It’s worse for you – this is your place," she said.

He felt tears come to his eyes. She was right. It was his place. He had been born here he knew everyone in Aghia Ann, he had known Olga the grandmother of Manos he knew the young men putting their boats out into the tide to rescue the victims. He knew the families who would be standing wailing at the harbour. Yes, it was worse for him. He looked at her piteously.

Her face was kind but she was practical too. "Why don’t you sit down? Please do," she said kindly. "There’s nothing we can do to help them."

It was the spur he needed. "I’m Andreas," he said. "You’re right, this is my place, and something terrible has happened here. I will offer you all a Metaxa brandy for the shock and we will say a prayer for the people in the bay."

"Is there nothing, nothing that we can do?" asked the English boy with the glasses.

"It took us about three hours to get up this far. By the time we got back I guess we’d only be in the way," said the tall American. "I’m Thomas, by the way, and I think we’d be better not crowding the harbour. See – there are dozens of people there already." He offered his binoculars so they could see for themselves.

"I’m Elsa," said the German girl, "and I’ll get the glasses."

They stood with tiny glasses of the fiery liquid in their hands and raised a strange toast in the sunshine.

Fiona, the Irish girl with the red hair and a freckled nose, said, "May their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace."

Her boyfriend seemed to wince slightly at the expression.

"Well, why not, Shane?" she asked him defensively. "It’s a blessing."

"Go in peace," said Thomas to the wreckage. Now the flames had died down and they were in the business of counting the living and the dead.

"L'chaim," said David, the English boy with the glasses. "It means ‘To Life’" he explained.

"Ruhet in Frieden," said Elsa with tears in her eyes.

"O Theos n'anapafsi tin psyhi tou" said Andreas, bowing his head in grief as he looked down on what looked like the worst tragedy that Aghia Anna had ever known. view abbreviated excerpt only...

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Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "Terrible Book"by chkahn12 (see profile) 05/16/10

We didn't care about the characters, the story line was bad and it was difficult to read because it was so poorly written. Too bad, always thought this author was good but was obviously under a deadline.... (read more)

  "Easy Read for the Holiday"by eshiner (see profile) 12/16/09

good book to just get your mind off of the day to day. Easy read, very light, not complicated, characters simplistic. Just eases the stress of the day. Nice for the Holidays to help you unwind.

  "simple but fun read"by okjeepcpl (see profile) 12/11/09

This was a simple read but I liked the little town where it took place.

  "Nights of Rain and Stars"by lynnquilts (see profile) 06/14/09

This is my least favorite book by Binchy and the only one I read that wasn't about Ireland. The character's only connection is being on holiday they meet in Greece. It didn't move me.

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