Firefly Summer

Firefly Summer

by Maeve Binchy

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - Reprint)

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Kate Ryan and her husband, John, have a rollicking pub in the Irish village of Mountfern . . . four lovely children . . . and such wonderful dreams. But all that is about to change one fateful summer when American millionaire Patrick O'Neill comes to town with his irresistible charm, and money to burn. As love and hate vie for a town's quiet heart, old traditions begin to crumble away. . . . 

Patrick O'Neill builds the grand hotel of his dreams, with its promise of wealth and change. Loyalties are challenged, jealousies ignited, and tragedy strikes before the foundation is laid. Suddenly Kate and John Ryan's lives and family are bound up with the newcomer in ways they can never imagine. And Patrick O'Neill faces his own crisis of conscience and heart as the events he sets in motion take on a life of their own in a town that will never be the same again. 

Praise for Firefly Summer

“The best Binchy yet.”The New York Times Book Review

“Totally engrossing . . . unforgettable . . . an absolutely grand story . . . a lyrical and compelling family drama . . . Mountfern and its residents come vibrantly alive.”Cleveland Plain Dealer

“The secrets hidden behind lace curtains, a young girl's first kiss, children's summer games, unexpected pregnancies, sudden deaths. She makes us feel as if we also know the place and its people. . . . One of those good old-fashioned stories that are as comfortable and comforting as home itself.”Philadelphia Inquirer

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780440204190
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/28/1989
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 672
Sales rank: 174,472
Product dimensions: 4.19(w) x 6.84(h) x 1.72(d)
Lexile: 800L (what's this?)

About the Author

Maeve Binchy is the bestselling author of This Year It Will Be Different, The Glass Lake, The Copper Beech, The Lilac Bus, Circle of Friends, Silver Wedding, Firefly Summer, Echoes, Light a Penny Candle, and London Transports. She has written two plays and a teleplay that won three awards at the Prague Film Festival. A writer for The Irish Times since 1969, she lives with her husband, writer and broadcaster Gordon Snell, in London and Dublin.


Dublin, Ireland, and London, England

Date of Birth:

May 28, 1940

Place of Birth:

Dalkey, a small village outside Dublin, Ireland


Holy Child Convent in Killiney; B.A. in history, University College, Dublin, 1960

Read an Excerpt

The sun came in at a slant and hit all the rings and marks on the bar counter. Kate Ryan managed to take a cloth to them at the same time as she was kicking off her house shoes and pulling on her wellington boots. She tucked her handbag under the counter and in almost the same movement opened the kitchen door to make sure that Eddie and Declan weren't torturing the new girl. The new girl had red eyes and a sad face and was missing her farm home. She might run back to it if Eddie and Declan were at their worst. But mercifully the appeal of the tortoise was still very strong even after three weeks. They lay on their stomachs and fed it stalks of cabbage, screaming with delight when it accepted them.

"John," she shouted, "will you come down to the bar, I have to go across the river and see what's keeping the twins. They have to be polished and smartened up for the concert and there isn't a sign of them."

John Ryan groaned. His train of thought was gone again. He had thought he would manage an hour or two on his own, struggling with his poetry. "Give me a minute," he called, hoping to catch the idea before it was gone.

"No, they'll be late as it is. Listen, bring your paper and pencil down, there's likely to be no one in, but there has to be someone behind the counter."

The door banged behind her and John Ryan saw, through the bedroom window, his wife run across the small footbridge opposite the pub. She climbed over the gate like a girl instead of a woman in her thirties. She looked altogether like a girl in her summer dress and her boots as she ran lightly across to the ruined house, Fernscourt, to find the twins.

He sighed and went down to the pub. He knew there were poet publicans, he knew there were men who wrote the poetry of angels in the middle of the stinking trenches of war. But he wasn't like that.

John Ryan moved slowly, a big man with a beer belly that had grown on him sneakily during the years standing behind a bar, jowls that had become flabby at the same trade. His wedding picture showed a different person, a thinner more eager-looking figure, yet the boyish looks hadn't completely gone. He had a head of sandy brown hair only flecked with grey and big eyebrows that never managed to look ferocious even when he willed them to, like at closing time or when he was trying to deal with some outrage that the children were reported to have committed.

Kate had hardly changed at all since their wedding day, he often said, which pleased her, but she said it was just a bit of old softsoaping to get out of having to stand at the bar. It was true, though; he looked at the girl with the long, curly dark hair tied back in a cream ribbon that matched her cream dress and coat. She looked very smart on that wet day in Dublin, he could hardly believe she was going to come and live with him in Mountfern. Kate hadn't developed a pot belly from serving drinks to others, as she often told him sharply. She said that there was no law saying you must have a drink with everyone who offered you one or pull a half pint for yourself to correspond with every half-dozen pints you pulled for others.

But then it was different for women.

John was the youngest of the seven Ryan children and the indulged pet of a mother who had been amazed and delighted at his arrival when she had been sure that her family was complete. He had been overfed and given fizzy drinks with sweet cake as long as he could remember. As a lad the running and leaping and cycling miles to a dance had kept him trimmer. Now, between sessions of writing his poetry and serving in his bar, it was a sedentary life.

He didn't know if he wanted it for his sons; he had such hopes for them—that they might see the world a bit, study maybe and go on for the university. That had been beyond the dreams of his parents' generation. Their main concern had been to see their children well settled into emigration; the church had helped of course, educating two nuns and two priests out of the Ryan family. John didn't see any vocation among his own offspring. Michael was dreamy and thoughtful: maybe a hermit? Or Dara a resourceful Reverend Mother somewhere? Eddie was a practical child, possibly a missionary brother teaching pagan tribes to build huts and dig canals. Declan the baby. Maybe they could make a curate out of him near home where they could keep an eye on him.

This was all nonsense, of course. None of them would end up within an ass's roar of a religious life. Still, John Ryan never saw the future standing surrounded by three sons and possibly his daughter all in the trade.

There would never be enough business, for one thing. Like many Irish towns Mountfern had the appearance of having far too many pubs already. If you went down the main street, Bridge Street, there were no less than three public houses. Foley's at the top of the town, but that was hardly a pub at all these days, just a counter really and a few friends of old Matt Foley drinking at night, they'd hardly know how to serve a real customer. Then there was Conway's which was more a grocery but it had the bar at the back. Conway's had a clientele of secret drinkers, people who didn't admit to any kind of drinking, who were always going out for a packet of cornflakes or a pound of flour and would toss back a brandy for their health. Often too, it had a funeral business since old Barry Conway was the undertaker as well. It seemed only right to come back to his place to drink when someone had been buried up on the hill. And Dunne's was always on the verge of closing. Paddy Dunne never knew whether to reorder supplies; he always said that it would hardly be worth it since any day now he'd be going to join his brother who ran a pub in Liverpool. But then either there would be a downturn in the fortunes of the Liverpool pub or an upswing in the drinking patterns of Mountfern. There was an unsettled air about his place and constant speculation about how much he would get if he were to sell his license.

John Ryan's pub had its rivals then, three of them in a small place like Mountfern. Yet he had all the business that came from the River Road side of the place. He had the farmers on this side of the town. It was a bigger and better bar than any of the other three, it had not only more space but it had more stock. And there were many who liked the walk out along the river bank.

John Ryan knew that he was a man who had been given a great deal by fate. Nobody had gathered him up to swoop him off to a religious order when he was a young impressionable boy. Neither had he been sponsored out to a life of hard graft in America like two of his elder brothers. By all their standards he had a life of ease and peace where he should well have been able to run his business and write his poetry.

But he was a man who did one thing at a time, almost overmethodically, too predictable sometimes for his wife who felt that people should be able to fire on several cylinders at the same time.

John wanted time to write or time to serve drink, he couldn't switch from one mode to another like lightning. Like Kate. He couldn't switch toward the children like she could as well. Either they were good or they weren't. He wasn't able to see the swift changes of mood like Kate was. He would not be cross and then smile minutes later. If he was cross he was very cross indeed. It was rare but it was all-embracing when it happened. One of Daddy's great angers was remembered long, whereas Mammy had a dozen quick and easily forgotten angers in a week.

John sighed again at his wife's swiftness and the annoyance at having to leave his work, his real work, just at that time. He knew that in this pub fate had handed him something that many a man in Ireland would envy mightily. It didn't bring in enough money for them to employ another pair of hands, but it wasn't so slack that a man could sit at the counter and write undisturbed. John Ryan hadn't brought his paper and pencils with him, any more than his thoughts. If customers saw you with paper and pencil they thought you were doing the accounts and making a small fortune. Anyway, what would have been the point? There was Jack Coyne from the garage who had just sold a heap of rusty metal to some unsuspecting farmer and they were in to seal the bargain with a pint.

Jack Coyne had a face like a ferret and two sharp eyes looking around him for a bargain or a business deal. He was a small wiry man equally at home underneath a car, covered in grease and shouting out about the extent of the repairs, or in a suit showing off his newly acquired vehicles which was what he called his second-hand stock. Everything about him seemed to be moving, he never stood still; even now at the bar he was shifting, moving from foot to foot.

"Great day, John," said Jack Coyne.

"It's been a great day all the time," said John, preparing to pull the pints.

"Bad for the crops," the farmer said.

"When were you lot ever pleased with the weather?" Jack Coyne laughed, the happy sound of a man who could sell second-hand cars no matter what the weather did.

The children of Mountfern had a place to play like no other children in the land. It was Fernscourt, the ruined house on the bank of the River Fern. It had been burned down one day forty years ago in 1922 during the Troubles. The Fern family had not been there on the day of the fire, they had been gone for many months before.

The children often asked their grandfathers about the fire but found a strange lapse of memory. The passions that had run so high in those years had settled down as time went by. The Ferns and all they symbolized had been forgotten. Their house stood as a beautiful ruin, where once it had stood as a beautiful big empty shell anyway. Now as a place to spend the long summer days it was quite simply perfect.

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Firefly Summer 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 46 reviews.
Marci Stappung More than 1 year ago
As usual, another great story by Binchy. I was honestly stunned when it ended. I was truly disappointed that it was time to let go of the characters and felt that there was much more to discover. Any hope for a sequel?
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the fourth Binchy novel I have had the pleasure of reading. I think it is the best so far!!! Others were Quentins, Tara Road, and Circle of Friends. She is my new favorite author, having discovered her only last year! She drew me into this book in a way I didn't think possible. I found myself laughing, crying, and gasping in disbelief.....very uncharacteristic of me! You don't want to miss this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is only the second Binchy book I have read (Light a Penny Candle was the first). I was sorry when the book finished as there were several loose ends. However, I felt there were a few too many characters - I could have used a Cast of Characters - and some were not very fleshed out.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Just catching up with Maeve Binchy's novels and was fasinated with the clearly drawn characters and fast-moving story line of 'Firefly Summer'. Having been drawn into the story I was disappointed not to find any sequels to this story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
after I read 'The Glass Lake,' but Firefly Summer, in my opinion surpassed even that great read. Maeve Binchy, as usual, has managed to capture characters that many of us have encountered in our lives in some way or another...the spirited Kate Ryan and her dependable John, the designing Marian Johnson, the discreet Sheila Whelan, the frustrated and often excluded younger sibling, Eddie....I hope Ms. Binchy's writing stays at least one book ahead of me!!! I couldn't bear not to have a Binchy book to read!
Anonymous 10 days ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I lose myself in Binchy’s novels. She has a way of bringing her characters to life so that you feel their joy and their pain. Wonderful book.
jayne_charles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An American businessman arrives in a small Irish village and opens a hotel, impacting financially and otherwise on the other residents.I followed Kate Ryan's story - this was excellent, but the author lost me with some of the sub-plots.Otherwise, a decent read. I liked the way the American characters were not simply portrayed as bad-guys, the inter-relationship between them and the locals was depicted well.
silva_44 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love Binchy's work, but this one wasn't one of my favorites. I think that her later works are more compelling because of the more intricate plot lines, and less abrupt transitions. The Glass Lake will forever and always be my very favorite . . .
rachelellen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I think every time I read a Maeve Binchy book I have a new favorite. Well, not quite. But this definitely ranks high on my list of favorites of her books. The cast of characters is miles long and by the fourth chapter you feel like you've known them all your life; the story is just complicated enough and with enough twists to keep it interesting without feeling too contrived. The driving strength in most of Binchy's books is, for me, the dialogue. Nobody writes it like she does, so naturally and with just enough of an Irish sound to it to make it seem quirky to my American ears, without being overdone. The interactions between her characters, and her characters themselves, are so real that the strange circumstances in which they will always find themselves as long as she is writing about them seem as familiar to me as my own life does.
SarahJo4110 More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
... a Master Storyteller! ... So glad that she gave us her words! ?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It started out ok but dragged on and on and on. The end of the book just stopped. After all of the happenings and descriptions of all of the characters I was left hanging with every character. There was nothing that wrapped up any character. I read all the way to the end and was extremely disappointed.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Once again the author had us develop a relationship with the main characters. Wish there had been one more chapter to let us see how everyone was doing.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book started a little slow, but was well worth sticking with it. After the initial few chapters, I was drawn in as only Binchy can do. From then on, I could not put the book down. Her characters become alive and you feel that you are right in that little Irish town. A great story with an ending you are not expecting. I would highly recommend this book.
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