Maeve Binchy. Unique. Not “very” unique, not “really” unique. Unique. Distinct. Definitive. You are or you are not Maeve Binchy. Ach, Maeve, we miss you so!
My library methodology is to accept the kindness of the book tenders when they present the Staff Picks and New Books. I’d been thinking of Maeve Binchy when “A Week in Winter” popped up on the shelf. And isn’t that just the way it goes? For those who know of her, this is classic. Little stories intertwining into cultural statements. You may know the movies (Circle of Friends, Tara Road) made from books she crafted. It’s the books you need to experience for the polished gems they are. This is her last book, she wisely set it in a country inn so that she could spin together a group of strangers, carving each character for us. She deliberately dropped the folderol of sex while keeping all the glory and horror of love.
Maybe you read her long ago. Visit her books again. The smarter you get, the better you appreciate the simple beauty of her narratives. She is a story teller and a people watcher and a soul seeker. She artfully captures the predatory overbearing mother-in-law as well as the earnest farmer with a hopeful heart. The Church looms in the background, having undue influence on some of the characters, and we have to remember the Ireland of 1960 when Maeve Binchy came of age, and its struggles ever since. One of her charms is that she “sees” the priests for what they are, good and bad, with the same down-to-earth ultimate-mortality of inn keepers and wanderers, town and country. She keeps her focus on the individuals in her books, she doesn’t fuss over circumstances, some folks are poor and some are not, and everybody has choices to make.
Maeve Binchy was 43 years old when the money came in. She knows exactly when it was, it was 1983, and she and Gordon, both writers – ‘Late marriage, thank goodness, we both knew our minds by then’ – were on the verge of losing their home, £211 a month mortgage, as it was then, and they were two months behind.
Then her first novel, Light A Penny Candle, sold for £52,000. Her publisher rang and told her it was the biggest sum ever given to a first-time novel: ‘It used to be Freddie Forsyth and now it’s you.’ Then the publisher said: ‘We’re so happy, we’re so happy.’ Which made Binchy want to check something out, so she asked: ‘Excuse me, do you get to keep that, or do I?’
‘I’m very much afraid,’ her publisher replied, ‘you get the £52,000.’
Binchy is very tall, very large, though stooped from osteoarthritis, faded blonde with sparkling blue eyes. We’re in the presence of an Irish storyteller here, in the upstairs study the money paid for[.]
Binchy is not just any Irish storyteller, but the one who outsells all the others. Her novel The Glass Lake is the bestselling Irish book ever and of the top sellers compiled by Irish bookstore Easons, Binchy took first, third and fourth places, with seven of her books in the top 100.
TO DO: Habituate to meaningful reading, don’t fritter away your time with screen-games and fame whores. Keep a book by the bed, another by the recliner. Stow one in the glove box to give you fifteen minutes of mystery-romance-intrigue-recipes-poetry while you wait for your next chauffeur duty to commence. Increasing your literacy will pay off professionally and socially because it enriches your context. Do you know that the Ben Stiller movie-remake about Walter Mitty is based on a story by James Thurber from seventy years ago? Nothing new about daring inner fantasies or dark inklings.
Bonus Recommendation: Books of the 1980’s (much different mood but just as well crafted) The Clan of the Cave Bear This is the first book in the Earth’s Children series by Jean M. Auel who put a voice to our distant foremothers’ struggles to make peace with the clan way of life, and the dangers and rewards of opposing the existing social order.
KathleenK.com – vivid family fiction for those who read between, around and beyond the lines.
“A witty and wise read, especially for fans of tough-minded heroines.”
– In re: Stainless Mary
#maevebinchy #readingforfun #waltermitty