Maeve Binchy was a columnist, playwright, short story writer, and novelist. She was also a speaker, loved for her humorous take on life in small towns of Ireland. She was known for creating stories with descriptive characters, in depth human nature and clever surprise endings. Her work has been translated in 37 languages with sales number of forty million copies worldwide. During the poll for World Book Day in 2000, she finished third ahead of famed writers like Charles Dickens and Stephen King.
Ireland’s most loved writer was born on 28 May 1940 in Dalkey, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Ireland. She was the oldest of four siblings including one brother and two sisters. As her parents were catholic, she attended Holy Child Convent in Killiney and earned a Bachelor’s in history for University of College Dublin.
Her first job was of a French language teacher but she barely had any money. Her career was profoundly affected when her parents gifted her a trip to Israel. Though her parents were nervous sending her alone to Middle East, she went and worked in kibbutz where she picked oranges and tugged chickens. She regularly sent letters to her parent about her experiences in Israel and her parents would send her letters to a newspaper who published them. This encouraged her to enter the world of writing and started writing travel articles.
After her mother’s death in 1968, she was in a state of solitaire. She was single, broke, and expecting a life of spinsterhood until she met Gordon Snell, freelance producer with BBC. She met him during a recording of Woman’s Hour in London. Their love was a perfect example of cross border love story, she was in Ireland and he was in London. Just for her love, she moved to London and found a job through Irish Times. In 1977, she and Snell got married, though they lived in London for sometime, couple moved to Dalkey, Ireland where Binchy had spent most of her life. They lived together until Binchy’s death.
Binchy suffered a serious hearth related issues in 2002. She was hospitalized for the treatment. Hospitalization was an inspirational experience that compelled her to write Heart and Soul. The book reflected many of her personal experiences in the hospital. Following her heart diseases, arthritis gave her constant pain and as a result, she went through a major hip operation.
Just after a short illness, Binchy died on 30 July 2012 in Dublin. On same evening, Vincent Browne announced her death on Irish television show Tonight with Vincent Browne and mourned for the passing of Ireland’s beloved, and well know novelist.
Her Writing Work
First work she did was accidental, she sent letters to her parent about her life in Israel, and her father was so impressed that he took those letters to an Irish newspaper for publishing. The Irish Independent paid her 16 pounds for her work. In 1968, she joined The Irish Times, worked as a writer, columnist, editor, and later reported for the paper from London until she moved back to Ireland.
Her first book called My First Book was a collection of her newspaper articles, which was published in 1970. However, as novelist she has 16 published novels and as short story writer, four short stories. Initially, she wrote short stories such as Central Line and Victoria Line. In 1982, her first novel was published called Light a Penny Candle, which earned her a sum of 52,000 pounds. The novel was published after being rejected for five times. Most of her stories use Ireland as the background dealing urban and rural life conflicts.
Her first book Light a Penny Candle is a story of two girls, Elizabeth and Aisling, who experiences the relationship of friendship during difficult period of World War II. During World War II, London is very dangerous to live and many children are sent to Ireland or USA. Elizabeth White is sent to live with her mother, Violet’s childhood friend, Eileen O’ Connors who has large family. Elizabeth becomes friend with Eileen’s daughter Aisling. As both girls are of same age, they love each other’s company and grow into young women. Elizabeth is slowly getting use to Aisling’s family. After the war is over, Elizabeth returns to her real family and gets married but the close relationship of friendship remains strong. They correspond through letters helping each other in their marriage, success, and failure. However, their own lives are in turmoil.
Other Binchy’s masterpiece novel is Circle of Friends. Plot has background of a small town of Knockglen in 1950, which host the story of two girls Bernadette ‘Benny’ Hogan and Eve. Benny is big hearted and only child whereas Eve is an orphan raised by nuns in a convent after her mother’s rich family rejects her. Friendship blossoms into their teens but Eve’s struggle to pay for her higher studies separates both. Fortunately, an accident brings two girls together in Dublin with two new friends Nan Mahon and Jack Foley. Eve is able to pay for her university tuition fee through her cousin Simon Westward and Benny wins the heart of handsome Jack. However, friendship is ruined when Nan attempts to use Eve’s family connection to her advantage. The story of sour relations continues when these characters grows old venturing into real working life.
It was Binchy’s in depth understanding of human nature that amazed her reader. Binchy has showed her talent as drama writer for both radio and silver screen. However, many of her novels and short stories are adapted successfully for films and television. Circle of Friends was Binchy’s first book that was made into major Hollywood film starring Chris O’Donnell and Minnie Driver. In addition, Tara Road and How About You are other two novels, which are made into Hollywood films. Binchy’s novel, Echoes published in 1985, was made into four part television miniseries for Channel 4 and The Lilac Bus, a collection of interrelated short stories, was made into a 90 minutes TV movie. In addition, she won Jacob’s Award for a RTE play called Deeply Regretted By in 1978.
Other than being novel writer she was an iconic figure for the Ireland receiving Irish PEN Award in 2007 and in 2010, she received lifetime achievement from the Irish Book Awards. She was highly respected among her contemporary writers.
Books in order of publication:
|Light a Penny Candle||(1982)|
|The Lilac Bus||(1984)|
|The Silver Wedding||(1988)|
|Circle of Friends||(1990)|
|The Copper Beech||(1992)|
|The Glass Lake||(1994)|
|Nights of Rain and Stars||(2004)|
|Heart and Soul||(2008)|
|A Week in Winter||(2012)|
|A Week in Summer||(2011)|
Short Story Collections
|This Year It Will Be Different and Other Stories||(1996)|
|The Return Journey||(1998)|
|A Few of the Girls||(2015)|
|Aches and Pains||(1999)|
|A Time to Dance||(2006)|
|The Maeve Binchy’s Writers’ Club||(2008)|