Book Review: Firefly Summer
By: Maeve Binchy
Published By: Arrow
Publication Date: August 2006
Page Count: 928
Audience: Adult - Historical Fiction
Firefly Summer is an in-depth look at the inhabitants of a small Irish town called Mountfern during the 1960's. The story begins with the town all abuzz at the sale of Fernscourt, the ruins of a great estate that was burned by disgruntled workers. The ruins are a symbol of the town's fight against oppression and wealth, but everything will change when Patrick O'Neill comes to town.
O'Neill has bought the ruins and plans to restore them to their former glory. He claims this will be good for everyone in town, but some people like Kate Ryan have their doubts. Kate is sure that O'Neill is only out to line his own pockets and his establishment will put her family pub out of business. The stress of O'Neill's business dealings puts a strain on the Ryan family, but things go from bad to worse when Kate is injured on a walk through Fernscourt and a legal battle ensues.
In addition to the Ryans and the O'Neills, readers get various glimpses into the lives of other townsfolk as Fernscourt begins its transformation. Some of the people in town are in favor of the estate becoming a resort, but others want it to stay ruins. There is always something scary about moving away from the past and into an uncertain future. Fernscourt is a symbol of a time in Irish history when the aristocrats controlled everything and the farmers were left with nothing. It does not hold positive memories for most townspeople.
I also enjoyed seeing how the Ryans interacted with their children in comparison with Patrick O'Neill's parenting style. These families operate in very different ways and its easy to see that money does not always bring happiness. I love the complexity of the family relationships within Binchy's novels.
I also am a huge fan of the way Binchy draws readers into her setting and makes it come alive. This one is littered with not only details about the town but historical elements.
One Last Gripe: The volume of characters was overwhelming at times.
Favorite Thing About This Book: The relationships
First Sentence: The sun came in at a slant and hit all the rings and marks on the bar counter.
Favorite Character: Kate
Least Favorite Character: Kerry
Kate and John Ryan have four children, of whom the eldest are Michael and Dara. Their small town is peaceful and friendly, an unchanging background for a golden childhood. In long, hot summers Michael and Dara and their friends fish and swim or play in the ivy-clad ruins of Fernscourt, the great house burned down during the Troubles...
No one in Mountfern has the slightest inkling of what it will mean when the ruins are bought by Patrick O'Neill, an Irish American with a dream in his heart and a great deal of money in his pocket. It is not until the very end of this drama, with its interlocking stories of love lost and won, ambitions nurtured and secrets betrayed, that Patrick O'Neill will understand the irony and the significance of his great dream for Mountfern.