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.