Saturday, March 13, 2010

An Irish Story Teller: Maeve Binchy

I just finished reading a great tale last night, Heart and Soul, by one of my favorite story tellers, Maeve Binchy. It continued her habit of delighting me.  Several years ago I finished all of her novels and kept them to reread and share with friends.  I have not seen her name on an unfamiliar book jacket for a couple years, so you can imagine my delight when I was on a potato chip emergency run to the grocery store the other day and saw this new-to-me paperback on the bookshelf.  (I know, I get to the chips by a circuitous route).

It was copyrighted in London in 2008 but in New York in 2009, so I am not as behind as I first feared.  Honestly, I have been afraid that she was in failing health or had passed on, and here she is, alive and well and writing! 

Several generalities are: The stories take place in Ireland, whether small village life whose heart she seems to understand, or the life in Dublin where those villagers gather into neighborhoods and people come and go driven for success and meaning.  The tales are character-driven: her stories are always about the people, and the plots are created by whatever choices and meanderings the individuals take.  The coordination of her cast of characters meeting each other and influencing the path each other takes, whether for good or ill, is where the real story lies, and sometimes it takes your breath away, the way it seems to fall together.  A wonderful joy in her stories is that, after you have come to love someone in a novel, their name may show up in another totally separate work, somehow connected to friends by a letter or visit, and you are so glad to know that they are going on with their lives, that they have grown and changed but are essentially still here in the world with us.  Lastly, she always dedicates her books to her husband “my dearest Gordon, with all my love” which I find personally charming.

Some of my favorites are:

Evening Class  My all-time favorite

Scarlet Feather    in which we meet friends from Heart and Soul again       

The glass Lake  a haunting tale of growing up in an Irish Catholic village


Tara Road

Circle of Friends  so different than the movie version which badly mangled its intent

Silver Wedding   

The Lilac Bus

Firefly Summer

Quentin’s    a dream come to fruition from her other works

The Copper Beech

Nights of Rain and Stars   sheer magic

Heart and Soul

Yesterday I had a day off of school and went with daughter Amanda and her visiting friend Hannah (from Florida; friendship from Tennessee) on an outing to the hot springs I wrote about here. The girls soaked and wrapped while I read in front of the stone fireplace.  I told you I wanted to go back there and read a good book: well, I did.  It was wonderful.

Here is the fireplace:


Here is Hannah:10-03-12-15-37-38HHere we all sat , pulled up to the fire: 


from the 3rd floor balcony:


Long live Maeve Binchy!

Long live the magic of Ireland!


Gilly said...

Never read her - maybe I should!

That looks a lovely place to snuggle up in!

Connie said...

I have been having trouble leaving a comment. For some reason my computer at home will not let me comment on this format. It has been frustrating. When people use a 'full page' format, I do not have any trouble. I will be at this computer for 2 weeks so I am happy!

Love the post with the flowers in the boots - very sweet - such a clever idea.

Do not know this author but you make me want to go out and buy her books. If only I could read by that fireplace I do not think I would want to leave.

Hannah Hamrick said...

Oh, I just loved getting to read this. I am now planning to pick up one of her books this summer and wish we could all three go back to reading in front of that delightful fireplace!