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Maeve Binchy: The Biography

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Maeve Binchy’s novels sold more than 40 million copies worldwide, and when she died on July 30th 2012, she did so as Ireland’s best-loved writer. With bestselling books such as Light a Penny Candle, Circle of Friends, Tara Road, Evening Class, and A Week in Winter, which was published four months after her death, no one else told stories like Maeve Binchy. Humane, down-to- Maeve Binchy’s novels sold more than 40 million copies worldwide, and when she died on July 30th 2012, she did so as Ireland’s best-loved writer. With bestselling books such as Light a Penny Candle, Circle of Friends, Tara Road, Evening Class, and A Week in Winter, which was published four months after her death, no one else told stories like Maeve Binchy. Humane, down-to-earth, and funny, her novels captured imaginations on both sides of the Atlantic in a way that most authors only dream of. More than simply a biography, this extraordinary book visits Maeve Binchy in the land of her birth, which is the environment of her novels, and in the company of the author and her fictional characters sets out to discover the emotional contours which define her as a writer and a person.


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Maeve Binchy’s novels sold more than 40 million copies worldwide, and when she died on July 30th 2012, she did so as Ireland’s best-loved writer. With bestselling books such as Light a Penny Candle, Circle of Friends, Tara Road, Evening Class, and A Week in Winter, which was published four months after her death, no one else told stories like Maeve Binchy. Humane, down-to- Maeve Binchy’s novels sold more than 40 million copies worldwide, and when she died on July 30th 2012, she did so as Ireland’s best-loved writer. With bestselling books such as Light a Penny Candle, Circle of Friends, Tara Road, Evening Class, and A Week in Winter, which was published four months after her death, no one else told stories like Maeve Binchy. Humane, down-to-earth, and funny, her novels captured imaginations on both sides of the Atlantic in a way that most authors only dream of. More than simply a biography, this extraordinary book visits Maeve Binchy in the land of her birth, which is the environment of her novels, and in the company of the author and her fictional characters sets out to discover the emotional contours which define her as a writer and a person.

30 review for Maeve Binchy: The Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Debbie Zapata

    Sept 4 ~~ Review asap. Sept 5 ~~ I had a hard time trying to decide what rating to give this book. I loved learning about Maeve Binchy. I have read many of her titles (all before joining GR) and enjoyed them very much. But I never knew anything about the author except that she was Irish. I learned in these pages that Maeve Binchy was a lot more of a free spirited character than I had ever imagined. She traveled the world alone back in the days when that simply was not done; she spent time living i Sept 4 ~~ Review asap. Sept 5 ~~ I had a hard time trying to decide what rating to give this book. I loved learning about Maeve Binchy. I have read many of her titles (all before joining GR) and enjoyed them very much. But I never knew anything about the author except that she was Irish. I learned in these pages that Maeve Binchy was a lot more of a free spirited character than I had ever imagined. She traveled the world alone back in the days when that simply was not done; she spent time living in a kibbutz in Israel; she was a teacher and a journalist before beginning to work on the novels I was familiar with. It was fascinating to see what a special, warm and wonderful person she was, and how very much she enjoyed life. BUT. The author of this book used Binchy's own stories and novels to explain parts of her life. In the process he reveals the plots of many of these works, so anyone who has not read Binchy will have to deal with tons of spoilers here. Frankly, whenever he morphed into discussing story plots I skipped ahead a few paragraphs so I could avoid reading them. It has been years since I last read Binchy's work, and I have not read most of the short stories he mentions. I wanted to maintain my innocence so that when I pick up her books again I will not have to say 'oh, I know what happens here because that guy who wrote her biography told me all about it'. Other than that gripe, the book was fascinating. I have a greater appreciation for Maeve Binchy now and since i know my library has shelves full of her work, I think I will mosey down there Someday to see if they have any of the short stories I've missed. I also would love to read some of her newspaper work, so my favorite online bookseller will get a visit too. Unless I get super lucky and my library has them. Well, of course now I am all fired up so maybe Someday will come tomorrow!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Valerity (Val)

    Examines the life of novelist Maeve Binchy. From her forebears beginnings in Ireland, when she came into the picture, and also a good history of Ireland's problems with England, which I wasn't in the know about. It tells of her schooling, how she was one of the first few young women to go to University in the 1950's, with an eye to a career. How her family was such a wonderful support to her self esteem, which helped her throughout her life. Made enjoyable to read by the author's flair, which I Examines the life of novelist Maeve Binchy. From her forebears beginnings in Ireland, when she came into the picture, and also a good history of Ireland's problems with England, which I wasn't in the know about. It tells of her schooling, how she was one of the first few young women to go to University in the 1950's, with an eye to a career. How her family was such a wonderful support to her self esteem, which helped her throughout her life. Made enjoyable to read by the author's flair, which I began to get after the first bit. Then it goes into Maeve's climb in the working world, and how she became the successful author the world knew her as when she passed. Includes lots of fascinating things she did inbetween, too.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Carol MacInnis

    I won this book from a contest on Goodreads. From the date of her birth on May 29, 1939 to her sad passing July 30,2012, the literary world was blessed with Author, Maeve Binchy's exceptional stories from her homeland of Ireland. Maeve's father was a barrister and in 1928 he graduated first Class Honors in English Language and Literature and late he got a Masters in the same. He would read throughout Maeve's childhood to her and her bedroom was stacked with shelves of her private library and by a I won this book from a contest on Goodreads. From the date of her birth on May 29, 1939 to her sad passing July 30,2012, the literary world was blessed with Author, Maeve Binchy's exceptional stories from her homeland of Ireland. Maeve's father was a barrister and in 1928 he graduated first Class Honors in English Language and Literature and late he got a Masters in the same. He would read throughout Maeve's childhood to her and her bedroom was stacked with shelves of her private library and by age 11 she read "Gone With The Wind" and was mezmerized by the extreme intelligence and the extent the author must have gone to with the background of the story. She was also intrigued by the fact that Author, Margaret Mitchell wrote that one and only book. As the world was introduced to radio (before television) Maeve would sit with her parents and listen to 90 minutes of Saturday Night Theatre with authors that included Dorothy Sayers, George Bernard Shaw, Agatha Christie, just to name a few. Maeve also had an interest in her father's laws book which she would sit and read. Her Mother always told her throughout her life that Maeve could do and be anything she wants. At age 37 Maeve married Gordon and at age 38 she discovered she could not have children. Although they were heart broken at this news, they nevertheless would sit and write their books together in the same room and would nurture and take time and care of their stories right up to each one of their 'births'. From lunch with the First Lady of the U.S., Barbara Bush to the Mayor of Chicago who gave her her own float at the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade. It's no wonder her books became so popular, with her talent for promoting them to audiences; she was an exceptional speaker. With much of the money she received with the publications of each book, Maeve gave much of it to many charities and friends and family. After reading the biography, I have a much better understanding of this remarkable woman and as I think back to the many books of hers that I've read, I can now see her in her works. An amazing, caring, gifted person that the literary world will truly never replace.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Carole Blake

    It's evident the author never met Maeve, and had access to few people in her life. In an attempt to correlate her life with her fiction, he makes clumsy comparisons between her life and plots in her novels, breaking into the narrative of her life with large chunks of novel summaries which distance the reader from Maeve herself. Large parts of the biography read instead like an exam essay. A lively subject, such a shame it turned into a laboured, dull, text.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Patricia Fawcett

    Piers Dudgeon applies the same, in-depth research to his account of Maeve's life as he did to that of Catherine Cookson. On that occasion, I came away from reading the book wondering if I liked Catherine any more. However, in Maeve's case, he only serves to endear us to Maeve even more. Maeve had no hidden agenda, save that of being modest almost to a fault. Whilst aspects of her everyday life were freely vaunted in her Irish Times column, and with interviews she gave over the years, Maeve downp Piers Dudgeon applies the same, in-depth research to his account of Maeve's life as he did to that of Catherine Cookson. On that occasion, I came away from reading the book wondering if I liked Catherine any more. However, in Maeve's case, he only serves to endear us to Maeve even more. Maeve had no hidden agenda, save that of being modest almost to a fault. Whilst aspects of her everyday life were freely vaunted in her Irish Times column, and with interviews she gave over the years, Maeve downplayed the wide variety of her life experience, from living on a kibbutz to reporting from Cyprus, in dangerous conditions, during the unrest in 1974. She travelled extensively, often alone, before meeting up with her soulmate and husband, Gordon Snell. Piers' research penetrates the layers of Maeve's persona, setting aside her unassuming modesty, and reveals a woman ahead of her time, one who would never be subsumed into a subservient role in Ireland. One little niggle which rankled me, as a Historian, was Piers referring to Henry VIII as a Protestant. Whilst Henry, having distanced himself from Rome following differences when he sought to divorce Catherine of Aragon, made himself Supreme Head of the Church, and went on to dissolve the monasteries - lining his pockets and war chest on the way - he nevertheless heard Mass every day of his life. he had little truck with the Reformists. The full essence of Protestantism did not fully permeate the ruling class in England until after the deaths of his son Edward and daughter Mary.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ginnie

    Lots of filler with retelling of her fiction plus psychoanalysis of why she wrote what she did. I only finished it because I wanted to know the facts about her life. I would have been better off reading Wikipedia!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Maureen Mullis

    An interesting woman and terrific writer, but this biography is dry and not very well written. Terribly disappointed.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Priscilla Herrington

    Maeve Binchy's death was a sad day for all of us who loved her novels. Her fans will definitely enjoy this biography. Piers Dudgeon tells Binchy's life story, showing how her life influenced her work. While she was writing novels that were popular both at home and abroad, she was also a regular correspondent for the Irish Times;l Dudgeon makes good use of her columns and articles to provide Binchy's own words to help tell the story.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nandy8

    Interesting for me since I've been a Maeve Binchy fan for years. A lot of references to Irish history and prehistory. Some parts rather dry.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Beth Mclaughlin

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book was important to me because Maeve is one of my favorite authors and I really wanted to learn more about her life. While there were some good stories and glimpses into Maeve, I was disappointed. I respect the authors attempt but it often read like a thesis, relying mostly on quotes and stories from other publications and long sections of Ireland history that linked somewhat to Maeve but I found myself paging through and skimming. Since the text was written after Maeve's death, there are This book was important to me because Maeve is one of my favorite authors and I really wanted to learn more about her life. While there were some good stories and glimpses into Maeve, I was disappointed. I respect the authors attempt but it often read like a thesis, relying mostly on quotes and stories from other publications and long sections of Ireland history that linked somewhat to Maeve but I found myself paging through and skimming. Since the text was written after Maeve's death, there are no direct quotes from her. But there are also no direct comments taken from her husband or family. I enjoyed the parts that showed Maeve's personality but those were too few. It had a lot of research put into it but again, read like an extended academic research project. I think I will google other things ha about Maeve and be more satisfied.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Flewts

    As a history major, I enjoy reading biographies, but I acknowledge they can be dry and not for everyone. So it was with real pleasure that I read this book. I have immensely enjoyed Maeve Binchy's storytelling, and in particular her thorough characterizations, and have read all of her novels. So when this book began comparing her life to things that happened in the various books, it made perfect sense. The biography has so much about Maeve and her characters and incidents in her life and how she As a history major, I enjoy reading biographies, but I acknowledge they can be dry and not for everyone. So it was with real pleasure that I read this book. I have immensely enjoyed Maeve Binchy's storytelling, and in particular her thorough characterizations, and have read all of her novels. So when this book began comparing her life to things that happened in the various books, it made perfect sense. The biography has so much about Maeve and her characters and incidents in her life and how she used her experiences to create a fictional story, it felt almost as if I were reading one last book by Maeve Binchy. If you loved her books, go ahead and read her biography. It's not heavy going at all, and you'll be glad you did!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    A lovely, timely biography of the sadly-missed Maeve; long-time readers will enjoy the arc of her life and careers in teaching, journalism, and fiction, as well as the exploration of her Irish identity and heritage. Dudgeon pulls from a wellspring of solid, reputable sources for this bio, and rarely does he stray too far into adjacent subjects [ancient Ireland, the Troubles, Catholicism, etc] without thoroughly and skillfully relating them back to the subject at hand. Enjoyable, interesting, and A lovely, timely biography of the sadly-missed Maeve; long-time readers will enjoy the arc of her life and careers in teaching, journalism, and fiction, as well as the exploration of her Irish identity and heritage. Dudgeon pulls from a wellspring of solid, reputable sources for this bio, and rarely does he stray too far into adjacent subjects [ancient Ireland, the Troubles, Catholicism, etc] without thoroughly and skillfully relating them back to the subject at hand. Enjoyable, interesting, and written with a respectful, gentle hand. Highly recommended for Binchy fans, feminist historians, and Irish literature collections.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Huether

    Maeve Binchy: The Biography. by Piers Dudgeon..Thanks Goodreads for picking my name to win this FREE first- reads book. A great story of her life and the books she wrote. Her mother was a wonderful influence on Maeve, Maeve was the oldest of four children. The family lived without frills so each child could go to college. Instead of a Catholic school, she went to a private school with some of her friends. The teacher there had a moto " If the child isn't happy, they do not learn well". Maeve too Maeve Binchy: The Biography. by Piers Dudgeon..Thanks Goodreads for picking my name to win this FREE first- reads book. A great story of her life and the books she wrote. Her mother was a wonderful influence on Maeve, Maeve was the oldest of four children. The family lived without frills so each child could go to college. Instead of a Catholic school, she went to a private school with some of her friends. The teacher there had a moto " If the child isn't happy, they do not learn well". Maeve took this moto to heart, when she taught school. The man she married was also a writer. They wrote together with their typewriters side by side. I wish I could have met her.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Colleen

    This is a interesting but at the same time scholarly view of the life and writings of Maeve Binchy. Besides writing what is typically considered a biography, the author digs deep into Ireland's history linking influences on Maeve throughout the years and exploring how those were reflected in her books, plays, short stories and newspaper columns. One of the key influences was her fall from the Catholic Church. She had her own views, but also felt people were entitled to their chosen expression of This is a interesting but at the same time scholarly view of the life and writings of Maeve Binchy. Besides writing what is typically considered a biography, the author digs deep into Ireland's history linking influences on Maeve throughout the years and exploring how those were reflected in her books, plays, short stories and newspaper columns. One of the key influences was her fall from the Catholic Church. She had her own views, but also felt people were entitled to their chosen expression of faith. For readers of her books and other writing, this is a wonderful way to celebrate her work and life. Well written and well documented.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Savannah Kundo

    I received a copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads. What a fascinating life Maeve Binchy had. Piers Dudgeon tells the story of Binchy's life from her early years to her university days in Ireland to her journalism and novelist careers in London. Dudgeon fills us in on the historical events going on during the time period, as well. I also found it interesting how so much of her life's work correlates to her writing, and Dudgeon does an excellent job at pointing out the parallels. I found I received a copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads. What a fascinating life Maeve Binchy had. Piers Dudgeon tells the story of Binchy's life from her early years to her university days in Ireland to her journalism and novelist careers in London. Dudgeon fills us in on the historical events going on during the time period, as well. I also found it interesting how so much of her life's work correlates to her writing, and Dudgeon does an excellent job at pointing out the parallels. I found this biography to be very interesting, often reading more like a story than a biography, though at some points it does sound a bit like an encyclopedia entry.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Eleanor Cowan

    This biography is proof that great women decide to be wonderful. Happiness is not a circumstance: it's a choice and Dudgeon's engaging bio communicates that Maeve made many pivotal decisions in her life. A woman who developed strong personal autonomy, Maeve generously shared her progress and her wisdom world-wide. Eleanor Cowan, author of : A History of a Pedophile's Wife: Memoir of a Canadian Teacher and Writer This biography is proof that great women decide to be wonderful. Happiness is not a circumstance: it's a choice and Dudgeon's engaging bio communicates that Maeve made many pivotal decisions in her life. A woman who developed strong personal autonomy, Maeve generously shared her progress and her wisdom world-wide. Eleanor Cowan, author of : A History of a Pedophile's Wife: Memoir of a Canadian Teacher and Writer

  17. 4 out of 5

    Natalya

    Very warm, humanitarian and knowledgeable description of the life of one of my most favorite authors! It was like opening the hidden door and seeing the life of the author, her character and how it related to the books I've read and the ones I'm still to read. This book made the author, who I've never met, a real personality and explained what motivated her to write the way she did, what driven her to make some of the decisions in her life.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rita

    I loved this. Dudgeon made Ms. Binchy and her surroundings come alive. I have always loved her books and this just made me admire her more and want to reread the books. I'm just finishing up my second reading of Tara Road, and I know I'm getting a lot more out of it this time! Wish I could own this book in large print. And then all of her books. And then...

  19. 5 out of 5

    Pat

    I've read all of Maeve's books and was saddened when I heard she was gone. Reading her books was like being part of an Irish village. I've enjoyed getting to learn how the woman these stories came from evolved. I am so pleased that she and Gordon Snell found one another! I also enjoyed the Irish background in this book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sonia Bellhouse

    A well researched and readable biography of the much loved Maeve. As a writer I found the insights into her writing process fascinating. So much of Maeve was in her books and so much of what found it's way there was through her personal experiences. She made it look easy and this biography tells us how hard she actually worked and how nothing was handed to her on a plate.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    Binchy grew up in very interesting times in Ireland, but I think we already knew that from reading her books. This author obviously has a lot of respect for her, but I felt he was heavy-handed in bringing historical relevance to her life story.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Cherop

    Not quite what I was expecting as far as biographies go but it was still an interesting read. There was a lot of insight into Maeve Binchy's inspirations for several of her novels, a peek into her psyche and work as a journalist as well as her inimitable personality.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    I love Maeve Binchy books, but did not find her biography as interesting to me as it may be to people more familiar with Ireland. Parts were interesting and educational, but I found the book failed to keep my interest as much as I would have liked.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Marisa

    Enjoyable but would have liked a little more

  25. 5 out of 5

    Toni

    I'd rather read Maeve's books than read this not so great bio about her.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sheryl Sato

    A thoughtful look at the life and times of Maeve Binchy; interesting to read and lovely to see so many references to characters and scenes from well-loved novels.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Judy Adams

    Didn't finish it, found it to be boring and text book. Loved the woman and her books, but this just wasn't what I was looking for.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Wieme

    eh. too much blah blah blah and too many references to stories... wasn't for me.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Beth Granger

    Started rather slowly, but by the end I felt like I knew Maeve and why she wrote such wonderful books.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Heather Crum

    Insightful

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