Sadly, one of mine, Maeve Binchy, died Monday in Dublin. Ms. Binchy was a bestselling Irish author selling over 40 million books worldwide. Her stories depicted family crisis and human relationships, mainly in the small towns of Ireland and London. She was 72 years old and in recent years had been in poor health due to arthritis and heart ailments.
Ms. Binchy wrote 16 novels, four collections of short stories, a play and a novella. Her novels were translated into over 30 languages and sold more than 40 million copies worldwide. Two novels, Circle of Friends (based on her days at University College Dublin) and Tara Road were turned into feature films.
Her first novel, Light a Penny Candle, was published in 1982 and was rejected five times before being published. It was set during World War II and following years and featured elements that characterized nearly all her novels: life in small town Ireland and family relationships. Some novels are complete stories (Circle of Friends, Light a Penny Candle) but many revolve around a cast of inter-related characters (The Copper Beech, Silver Wedding, Heart and Soul). Others (Scarlet Feather, Quentins, Tara Road) featured recurring characters.
Her latest novel, A Week in Winter, is scheduled for publication later this year. In 2000, she had announced that Scarlet Feather would be her last book, prompting nearly 1,000 people to protest by writing to The Irish Times. A follow-up novel, Quentins was published in 2002. That year, after going through several heart-related health issues, she was cautioned to restrict her activities. Her time spent in hospitals inspired the 2009 novel, Heart and Soul which was followed up by Minding Frankie in 2010. She also received a lifetime achievement honor from the Irish Book Awards that same year.
Describing her childhood in Dalkey in County Dublin, Binchy wrote on her official website that she was "full of enthusiasm, mad fantasies . . . and anxious to be a saint."
After graduation from University College, Dublin, Binchy worked as a teacher and later became a journalist, columnist and women's editor at The Irish Times, one of the country's leading newspapers. She moved to England and in the 1970s became the paper's London editor. She is survived by her husband, writer Gordon Snell, an author of children's books. She always referred to him by name on the dedication page of her books.
Immediate media reports described Binchy as "beloved, Ireland's most well-known novelist, and the best-loved writer of her generation." Her books have outsold top Irish writers including Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, and Samuel Beckett. Her novels were on the venerated US bestseller list of The New York Times many times. She was recognized for her "total absence of malice" and generosity to other writers as well. In a 2000 book poll, she finished ahead of authors that included Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Stephen King.
Scottish author Ian Rankin said, "She had time for everybody. Perhaps because her stories came from all of us and for all of us." British author, former politician, and personal friend Jeffrey Archer wrote, "She had the greatest God-given Irish gift of telling stories, who loved people and had a zest for life. She had that gift of making you feel life was worth living."
"We're nothing if we're not loved. When you meet somebody who is more important to you than yourself, that has to be the most important thing in life, really. And I think we are all striving for it in different ways. I also believe very, very strongly that everybody is the hero/heroine of his/her own life. I try to make my characters king of ordinary, somebody that anybody could be. Because we've all had loves, perhaps love and loss, people can relate to my characters." Maeve BinchyNovels
- Light a Penny Candle (1982)
- Echoes (1985)
- Firefly Summer (1987)
- Silver Wedding (1988)
- Circle of Friends (1990)
- The Copper Beech (1992)
- The Glass Lake (1994)
- Evening Class (1996)
- Tara Road (1998)
- Scarlet Feather (2000)
- Quentins (2002)
- Nights of Rain and Stars (2004)
- Whitethorn Woods (2006)
- Heart and Soul (2008)
- Minding Frankie (2010)
- A Week in Winter (pending 2012 release)