|PHOTO FROM THE GUARDIAN|
Certainly it marks the demise of a National Treasure and (according to Wikipedia) Irelands most recognisable author. Whether you enjoyed her works or not (and who wouldn't!) - Maeve Binchy was a personality and a talent to be reckoned with!
Like most of her fans, I was lent my first Maeve Binchy novel. A mate from school - a 'Convent girl' - was of Irish descent and wanted to watch the soon-to-be-released Circle of Friends movie with a native (this was 1995 I think). We - naturally - had to read the book before we took a trip to the fil(u)ms. My mother - as ever - rose to the occasion with a flourish. She provided not one but three different Binchy novels for us to devour!
What a wonderful gift Ms Binchy had. Not for her grand statements on politics and 't'economy'. She focused instead on the small scale - familiar settings, constant humorous observations on/of/about people and by providing detailed sketches of men and women the length and breath of Ireland; she more than made obvious her deep understand of the society around her and her opinions of it, if you chose to read between the lines!
More than that, she created people that you believe in. As she put it “I don't have ugly ducklings turning into swans in my stories. I have ugly ducklings turning into confident ducks.”
Ideal for every teenager I think.
Though eventually I stopped reaching for her novels as regularly; I've never underestimated her as an author. Yes, she wrote romps; funny and silly and wise in equal measure. But damn, our Maeve crafted them beautifully! And some of those can't-spot-them-coming shock endings were...well...shocking! And extreme! And did I mention shocking!!
Reading these books in Zimbabwe didn't necessarily paint for me an accurate picture of the scene back home. Rather, her witty and wry view convinced me that people are pretty much the same wherever you go. Traditions, belief systems and laws vary from place to place - but that unique spark within each of us - our personalities and our hopes and our dreams - well they seem to provide a sort of universal constant. As I will always associate Anne McCaffrey with my longest successful relationship (SF); I shall always think of Maeve Binchy as the author who allowed me to pull back the curtain for the first time.
More recently; I borrowed (yes, still from my mammy!) Convent Girls - a collection of short stories from women on either side of the V2 divide (if you don't know, count yourself lucky & read on!). Maeve Binchy contributed one of the essays provided. Reading her very brief piece had the same emotional impact on me as bumping into a friend you haven't seen in over ten years in a cafe unexpectedly, ordering a coffee and discovering that they as are warm, as entertaining and as comfortable as your fondest memories suggest!
To the family and friends of Ms Binchy I offer my condolences.
28th of May 1940
30th of July 2012
Read a detailed biography and obituary on The Guardian or RTE website.
“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 kind of ordinary, somebody that anybody could be. Because we've all had loves, perhaps love and loss, people can relate to my characters”