Wednesday, August 1, 2012

In Memoriam - Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy (M), the highly respected and much beloved Irish fiction writer has passed away at the age of 72. Ms Binchy has been a favourite of our library's readers for 30 years.  She actually holds the record at my branch library for the most popular ever read-a-like display - and that was just last year, which speaks to her enduring appeal.

Her first novel was Light a Penny Candle (M) published in 1982. Her last was 2010's  Minding Frankie (M). Perhaps her best known titles are those which have been made into feature films, namely Circle of Friends (Mand Tara Road (M).

In terms of describing Maeve Binchy's enduring appeal to readers, I'll defer to the NoveList description, as penned by RA guru Joyce Saricks:

Irish writer Maeve Binchy writes quintessential, rather gentle stories of women that explore the fabric of women's lives and their relationships with family, friends, and lovers. Although they may be set in larger cities, her stories have a comfortable, small-town feel, where communities of people intersect. There may be secrets and domestic dramas, but these are generally old-fashioned, comfortable, layered stories, timeless in many ways, and descriptive of people and communities. They are touching and evocative without being mawkish. In fact, there may be a bite, an ironic twist in the story and characters, and while the ending is not necessarily happy, there is resolution.

Characters are more important than plot in Binchy's novels; she presents interesting, true-to-life characters, sympathetically. That her settings and characters are almost exclusively Irish has not put off her non-Irish readers. Her characters, placed in universal situations, touch a chord that resonates across the Atlantic.

Binchy's generally upbeat, heartwarming stories unfold at a leisurely pace. While not what any reader would call page-turners, they keep the reader engrossed. She skillfully forges emotional links between readers and characters. Her books are often comprised of linked short stories, and we read to discover the next chapter of each character's life. 

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