Maeve Binchy in Dublin 2006. C.C. 2.0.

Writer Watch

Maeve Binchy

When readers and fans of the popular Irish author, Maeve Binchy, visited her website on 31 July 2012 at they were dismayed to see the following message:

‘It is with immense sadness that we announce the death of Maeve Binchy on 30 July 2012 in Dublin. Her husband Gordon Snell and her sister Joan Ryan were at her side. 

‘Maeve was a weaver of magic whose stories touched the hearts of millions. She died far too soon; she had many more stories to tell. She will be sorely missed by her family, her friends, her publishers and her readers throughout the world.’

Maeve’s death at the age of 72 was not completely unexpected; she had been unwell for some time, but she was not one to complain and enjoyed her life immensely. She wrote:

‘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.’

Maeve Binchy began her writing career as a journalist and later became a best-selling novelist known for the warmth and humour inherent in her accounts of Irish life. Her novels and collections of short stories were translated into 42 languages and sold more than 40 million copies worldwide. Some of her work was also adapted for film and television, including the 1995 film Circle of Friends.

Maeve’s last novel, Minding Frankie, was published in 2010. That same year the Irish Book Awards honoured her with a lifetime achievement award.

When she was asked what the greatest influence on her writing was she said: ‘The biggest influence on my books was the fact that I had worked in a newspaper for so long. In a daily paper, you learn to write very quickly; there is no time to sit and brood about what you are going to say.’

Tributes and messages of condolence for the family continue to pour in and some of these from Maeve’s readers have been posted on the above website, including this one from Jane Wright: 

‘Like all her readers, I’ll miss looking out for the latest Maeve Binchy, because her books always cheered me, left me feeling a bit uplifted. And that’s her great legacy: the way she counteracted the depressing effects of world news and economic disasters. For many people also, they are a comfort in personal sadness and a reminder that love and friendship can help through hard times. Her books have helped a lot of people, and they’re all still there for new generations of readers. Sad loss of a kind person and good writer. Jane Wright

Maeve Binchy called her novels ‘escapist writing’ and although some critics pointed to a lack of plausibility in some of her tales, Binchy had strong female protagonists and was able to astutely capture the atmosphere of sexual repression in 1950s small-town Ireland. It's no surprise that she was an admirer of American author Ann Tyler and she shared an ability to weave wonderful stories out of the lives of ordinary people. She was hailed by The New York Times as ‘a remarkably gifted writer’.

Maeve should also be remembered as a joyful and generous person who enjoyed life. She loved Irish music and jazz – choosing music from the great pipes player Liam O'Flynn as well as Dave Brubeck and Ella Fitzgerald on her Desert Island Discs appearance in 1990.

She was happily married for four decades to the children's author Gordon Snell. Their writing routine was to work together in the mornings, writing at the same long desk, and then play chess. ‘We are still hopeless at it, but loved chess to bits,’ she said. One of her true pleasures was also playing what she called ‘very bad over-talkative bridge’.

Website Watch

Publications and Links: Maeve Binchy published novels, non-fiction, a play and several short story collections.


Light a Penny Candle (1982); Echoes (1985); Firefly Summer (1987); Silver Wedding (1988); Circle of Friends (1990); The Copper Beech (1992); The Glass Lake (1994); Evening Class (1996); Tara Road (1998); Scarlet Feather (2000); Quentins (2002); Nights of Rain and Stars (2004); Whitethorn Woods (2006); Heart and Soul (2008); Minding Frankie (2010)

Short story collections

Central Line (1978); Victoria Line (1980); Dublin 4 (1981); London Transports (1983); The Lilac Bus (1984); Story Teller: Collection of Short Stories (1990); Dublin People (1993); Cross Lines (1996); This Year It Will Be Different: And Other Stories (1996); The Return Journey (1998)


The Builders (2002); Star Sullivan (2006); Full House (2012)


Aches and Pains (1999); A Time to Dance (2006); The Maeve Binchy Writer's Club (2008)

Related Articles

Maeve Binchy: Ireland's national treasure  – 31 Jul 2012 –

The Irish novelist who shunned the dark side  – 31 Jul 2012 –

Arthritis: Maeve Binchy and Martina Cole share their experiences – 16 Jan 2009 –