I need to preface this by saying that Maeve Binchy was one of my favourite authors as a teenager, and Echoes, Light a Penny Candle, Firefly Summer, Circle of Friends – these were some of my favourites. She created amazing characters in places that seemed familiar no matter how unfamiliar they were. And in this book, she created a handful of fabulous characters but the structure of the book was clunky and repetitive and I just didn’t like the way it came together.
It’s set on a beautiful island where a group of tourists come together after a local tragedy sets the town into mourning. They each have their problems and, conveniently, they help each other through.
Set in the small Irish town of Mountfern in the early sixties, Firefly Summer follows the life of the townsfolk as they come to terms with the big American Patrick O’Neill, who has come back to the town of his forefathers to restore the old estate into a large Hotel. In particular, it’s about the Ryan family who run the nearest pub to the site and how they deal with the potential effects that it will have on their lives.
Maeve Binchy was such a go to in my teenage years. She creates these worlds where you get to go and live for a while, these characters that you love and become invested in. Her first two novels, Light a Penny Candle and Echoes will probably always be my favourites, but this is up there. I’m not sure if I’d have liked it as much if I read it now without my prior love of the book, but it was a great trip down memory lane to reread it.
As a teenager, I was obsessed with Maeve Binchy novels. I loved the characters, the world that was created, their challenges and the way they overcame them. It’s been ages since I returned to them, but I’m so glad I have. There were two that I absolutely loved: Light a Penny Candle and Echoes. So much that I seem to have mixed the two up – I was about halfway through when I realised I was partially living in the wrong world, looking forward to events that were not going to happen.
Light a Penny Candle starts with Elizabeth as a war evacuee from London sent to Ireland to live with Elizabeth’s mother’s schoolfriend and her family. Quickly, she becomes closest friends with Aisling and the book follows their friendship through their time together in Ireland, Elizabeth returning to London, and how their lives are, both entwined and separate.
I still love it. It’s engaging and beautiful, and I love the way Binchy creates a whole world describing through action, revealing so much about characters and everything in simple, beautiful paragraphs.