Remembering Maeve Binchy
Storyteller Maeve Binchy touched many hearts over the years with her character-driven novels set in small Irish communities. The announcement of her death in Dublin on July 30, 2012, brought a profound sadness among her fans, including the staff at Cook Memorial Public Library District.
Ms. Binchy didn’t start out as a novelist. She first worked as a teacher and journalist, and wrote her first novel, Light a Penny Candle, at the age of 42. Since then, 40 million copies of her books have been sold in 37 languages. Her eighteenth novel, A Week in Winter, is due to be published in October.
Ms. Binchy was described by those who knew her as a happy, generous person who loved her friends and family. The importance of relationships and community were reflected in all her novels. On her web site, she said, “The happiest moments of my life are connected with family and friends. There is a great comfort about being with people who knew you way back when. There is a mental shorthand, an easy-going feeling that life doesn't have to be explained or defined; we are all in more or less the same boat. To have a community around you in a changing and unstable world is invaluable and nothing can beat the feeling that there will always be people out for our good.’’
Reference librarian Sonia Schoenfield said the author’s death hit her hard.
“I am going to miss Maeve Binchy so much,’’ Schoenfield said. ‘’She was one of my ‘comfort’ authors, someone to turn to when things in my world weren’t going right. Her characters had problems just as bad, and usually worse, than mine, but they almost always pulled themselves together and soldiered on to a satisfactory conclusion. I liked the way Maeve Binchy could tell a story through the voices of several different characters in separate chapters. Each voice moved the story along and gave a slightly different perspective of a given situation. By the end of the book each character was dear to me and I felt like I belonged in their world.
“Maeve Binchy’s books were full of love and community. She showed us that life is lived best when we live it together. Quirky characters were accepted and included in the community. People were given a second chance and redemption was bestowed with grace. What will we do now that Maeve Binchy is gone? What will happen to the characters that we’ve grown to love? Who will join me in a pilgrimage to St. Ann’s well in Rossmore to lay our sorrows at the feet of the blessed saint? Excuse me while I go get a copy of Scarlet Feather to read and soothe my troubled heart.’’
Reference librarian Jane Trump, another fan, said, “For me reading one of Maeve Binchy’s books is like taking a lovely vacation, leaving my everyday world behind and plunging headlong into a different time and place. And like a good vacation, her books are relaxing, because you can trust that no matter how many problems her characters face, by the end she will sort everything out satisfactorily for all of them.’’
Children’s librarian Debra Lindahl said one of her favorite Maeve Binchy books is Evening Class.
‘’Though not on the class roster at Mountainview College in Dublin, I was right there with the class of those learning Italian taught by Signora,’’ Lindahl said. “The cast of characters became my friends as I read through the pages with few pauses. We all have “colorful” characters in our own lives -- the goofy eccentrics, those who are struggling to hold a marriage together, those who have challenges in the work environment, and those who aren’t quite who they seem to look on the outside as they are on the inside. What Maeve Binchy did to the characters was to weave them together as quirky units to make a larger unit of sanity, reason and love. A unit that had the escapism of an evening college class transforming their lives outside that class to a life better lived in the real world.’’
Connie Regan, head of the library’s Fiction, Movies and Music department, said her favorite Binchy book is Copper Beach, and added that all the audiobooks are wonderfully done. She described Binchy as a writer who was so relatable.
“I felt like if I met her on an airplane, we’d have a lot to talk about,’’ Regan said. “When she announced she was retiring in 2000 after writing Scarlet Feather, I was so sad to think there would be no more novels to look forward to. Then she came out of retirement. I’m glad there will be one last book to savor.’’
Ms. Binchy was a perennial favorite among Cook Library patrons, ranking in the top 25 most popular fiction authors. Her book, Minding Frankie, is a book club favorite. To see Maeve Binchy’s books in our catalog, click here.
Nate's Spotify Song of the Week- J.D. McPherson
This week we are highlighting J.D. McPherson's retro 50's rockabilly sound. If you're someone who wishes they still made rock music like Little Richard, Elvis, and Buddy Holly, give this track a shot. Click here to check out the CD from the library.
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"Beautiful Ruins'' by Jess Walter
When a beautiful young American starlet arrives in 1962 at a remote Italian fishing village, young Pasquale Tursi is smitten. Dee Moray, an actress in the movie “Cleopatra’’, has been whisked away by movie publicist Michael Deane to stay at Pasquale’s humble inn. Dee has been told by the movie set doctor that she is dying, which isn’t really the case.
Fifty years later, an elderly Pasquale travels to Hollywood to find out what happened to the starlet who stole his heart so long ago. Is she alive? Is she happy? Pasquale seeks the help of the movie publicist who first brought Dee to his village. Michael Deane, now a legend in the movie industry, is in a serious slump and worried about his legacy. When the old Italian shows up, Deane feels a twinge of guilt about how he treated Dee Moray so long ago, and agrees to help find her.
Readers meet the incredibly talented but alcoholic Richard Burton, who has fallen in love with volatile co-star Elizabeth Taylor on the set of “Cleopatra’’. The young Pasquale is inspired by Burton’s moral flaws to do the right thing in his own life. He remembers his mother’s advice: “Sometimes what we want to do and what we must do are not the same. Pasquo, the smaller the space between your desire and what is right, the happier you will be.”
Other entertaining characters along the way struggle with finding success using their artistic talents. Alvis Bender is a hard-drinking car salesman who dreams of being a great writer. Claire Silver clings to her goal of producing a truly great movie before she leaves her Hollywood aspirations behind forever. Shane Wheeler hopes his pitch about the infamous cannibalistic Donner Party will entice Michael Deane to produce a blockbuster movie. Washed-up musician Pat Bender battles his addictions while trying to make a living.
The ending of “Beautiful Ruins’’ is especially satisfying because author Jess Walter reveals what ends up happening to all these fascinating people. He effortlessly weaves the lives of a flawed cast of characters into a funny, poignant story.
"Gone Girl'' by Gillian Flynn
Gillian Flynn’s dark portrayal of what happens when a young couple’s marriage deteriorates is both brilliant and chilling.
Amy Dunne is the beautiful wife who has gone missing from their home on the couple’s fifth wedding anniversary. Nick is the unhappy husband who is suspected of killing her. The story is told from the couple’s alternating viewpoints. The media frenzy portrays Nick as the likely killer, while community sentiment turns against him. The only person who thinks Nick is innocent is his twin sister Margo, although she at times is filled with doubt. While new evidence points to his guilt, Nick frantically tries to prove his innocence before ending up in jail.
Things are never what they seem, and the constant mind games will keep readers wanting desperately to find out how this story plays out. “Gone Girl’’, which would make a great Hitchcock-type film, will stay with me for some time. If you like a suspenseful tale that examines the dark side of a person’s psyche, you will want to read this novel.