Maeve Binchy Snell was a versatile twentieth century writer. She has produced several plays, short stories, novels and also wrote columns in a newspaper. Her works have been translated into 37 languages and over forty million copies have been sold worldwide.
Born in Dalkey, County Dublin on 28 May 1940, Binchy was the first-born in a Catholic family. Her family was a hub of academics as her brother was a Regius Professor of Laws at Trinity College and uncle, D. A. Binchy, was a historian. She received her early education from Holy Child Convent and majored in history from University College Dublin. Subsequent to her studies she worked as a language and history teacher at a number of schools. Then she followed her career in journalism working at The Irish Times. Eventually, she began her literary career working on short stories, novels, and plays.
Binchy once claimed that her stay in Israel deeply influenced her faith and writing. Her writing career started off inadvertently in 1960’s. It all began with her letters that she used to write to her parents back home in Ireland. Her parents were so fascinated by her letters that they would send them to an Irish newspaper to publish them after slight editing. Later she was hired by The Irish Times as a columnist, women’s page editor and London page editor.
Binchy’s debut book, My First Book, was a collection of her articles, published in 1970. However, her actual literary career began with short stories collection titled, Central Line (1978) and Victoria Line (1980). In 1982, she published a novel Light a Penny Candle. It is considered to be sold for the highest amount ever paid for a novel. It was about two young girls growing up in post World War II period. Although, her first book was rejected five times, she managed to have it published and eventually become Ireland’s wealthiest woman.
Most of Binchy’s novels addressed the tension between metropolis and rural life. She also highlighted stark contrast between English and Irish life and their social dynamics. Furthermore, her novels dealt with the dramatic and drastic transformation in Irish attitude and position subsequent to World War II. Her novels, for instance, Light a Penny Candle and Circle of Friends, have interrelated characters who were further featured in her other novels like, Silver Wedding, Scarlet Feather, Evening Class and The Copper Beech. Binchy kept writing till the end of her days. She succeeded to publish five more literary works before her demise. These works include, Quentins (2002), Nights of Rain and Stars (2004), Whitethorn Woods (2006), Heart and Soul (2008). In 2010 she penned Minding Frankie two years before she departed this life. A Week in Winter is marked as last of her works which was published posthumously in 2012.
The success of her works can be determined by the fact that her novels have outsold her contemporaries and her predecessor; eminent Irish writers including W. B. Yeats, Oscar Wilde, Seamus Heaney, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett. She also earned great recognition in American book market as her works topped The New York Times best-seller list. She earned herself British Book Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1999. She won WH Smith Literary Award for Scarlet Feather. 30th July 2012 marked as a depressing day in the Irish literary history for Maeve Binchy Snell’s sudden demise.