MAEVE BINCHY, who died Monday at the age of 72, was an Irish novelist best known for her humorous take on small-town life in Ireland, her descriptive characters, and her often clever surprise endings. Her novels, which were translated into 37 languages, sold more than 40 million copies worldwide, and her death was mourned as the passing of Ireland’s best-loved and most recognizable writer.
Her books have outsold those of other top Irish writers, such as Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, WB Yeats, and Roddy Doyle. She was featured on The New York Times bestseller list and in Oprah’s Book Club.
My friend said that “her characters were like friends!” How true.
“Light a Penny Candle” (1982), was Binchy’s debut novel. It followed two girls, Elizabeth White and Aisling O’Connor, growing up in the aftermath of World War II. The book was rejected five times. She would later describe those rejections as “a slap in the face […] It’s like if you don’t go to a dance you can never be rejected but you’ll never get to dance either.”
“Circle of Friends” was written in 1990 and made into a movie in 1995. It was set in rural Ireland in the 1950s. Minnie Driver, who gained 25 pounds for the lead role of Bernadette “Benny” Hogan, was thrilled to play a “great big, warm character” at the age of 22.
Many of Binchy’s novels “Evening Class,” “Scarlet Feather,” “Quentins,” and “Tara Road” featured recurring characters: Elle Brady, Nora O’Donoghue and Aidan Dunne are some.
Novelist Patricia Scanlan said Ms. Binchy was extremely generous to aspiring writers, and would give them great encouragement and advice. She said Ms. Binchy had once described writing as a “big pie, with plenty for all of us.”
Ms. Scanlon continued, “The greatness about Maeve was that she had empathy, and any reader who read her understood perfectly where she was coming from because she touched the lives and the hearts of people.”
She certainly touched mine. Goodbye and God bless you.