This Day In Writing History
On May 28th, 1940, writer Maeve Binchy was born in Dalkey, Ireland - a quiet coastal town just ten miles south of Dublin. Her father William was a promient barrister in Dublin. He and his wife both encouraged their children to be avid readers and to share stories at the dinner table, and nobody loved telling stories more than Maeve. She once quipped, "I had a very happy childhood, which is unsuitable if you're going to be an Irish writer."
Maeve Binchy went to University College in Dublin, majoring in history and French, and after she graduated in 1960, she became a schoolteacher, teaching history, French, and Latin at a Catholic grade school in Dublin. She spent her summer vacations indulging her passion for travel. Binchy became such a popular teacher that her students' parents chipped in to send her on a trip to Israel.
While in Israel, Binchy wrote long, detailed letters home describing her adventures there, the country, the daily life, and the people that she met. Her father was so impressed with her writing that he typed up the letters and submitted them to the Irish Independent newspaper. When she returned to Dublin, to her surprise, she found that she'd become a published writer.
Binchy also found that she was interested in journalism, and landed a job as women's editor for The Irish Times. In the early 1970s, Binchy switched to feature reporting and moved to London to be with Gordon Snell, a BBC broadcaster turned children's book writer and mystery novelist, whom she had met and fallen in love with during a previous visit. They married in 1977 and remain happily married to this day. In 1980, the couple moved to Binchy's hometown of Dalkey and bought a cottage, where they still live.
After returning to Dalkey, Binchy began her writing career, publishing two collections of her newspaper work and a collection of short stories. In between reporting assignments, she wrote her first novel, Light A Penny Candle, which was published in 1982. Set during the outbreak of World War 2, the novel tells the story of Elizabeth White, a young British girl who is sent to stay with a large Irish family, the O'Connors, whose daughter Aisling is Elizabeth's age. The girls form an inseperable bond of friendship that remains long after the war ends, as they write to each other frequently.
As a writer, Binchy has been described as a modern day Jane Austen. Her novels mostly deal with the trials and tribulations of Irish women in the 20th century. They are also steeped deep in Catholicism, though as the influence of the Church has waned in Ireland, so too has it waned in Binchy's writing. Eleven of her novels reached the New York Times bestseller list, and in reader polls taken in Ireland and England, Binchy has been rated higher than James Joyce, prompting her to joke that it was because most of her books were sold in airport bookshops and "if you're going on a plane journey, you're more likely to take one of my stories than Finnegan's Wake."
In 1995, Binchy's popular 1990 novel Circle Of Friends was made into a movie starring Minnie Driver and Chris O'Donnell. Unfortunately for fans of the book, in his adaptation, screenwriter Andrew Davies elected to give the film a completely different ending.
Binchy announced her retirement from writing in 2000, but it proved to be short-lived. She has written four novels since then. In additon to her novels and short story collections, Binchy is also a playwright, and her plays have been staged at the Peacock Theatre in Dublin. For over 30 years, she has written a hugely popular monthly column called Maeve's Week for The Irish Times which is part advice column, part gossip column, and part humor column.
Throughout her long career, which still continues, Maeve Binchy has proven herself to be one of Ireland's greatest writers.
Quote Of The Day
"The Irishman, finding himself in another environment, outside Ireland, very often knows how to make his worth felt. The economic and intellectual conditions of his homeland do not permit the individual to develop. The spirit of the country has been weakened by centuries of useless struggle and broken treaties. Individual initiative has been paralyzed by the influence and admonitions of the Church, while the body has been shackled by peelers, duty officers and soldiers. No self-respecting person wants to stay in Ireland. Instead he will run from it, as if from a country that has been subjected to a visitation by an angry Jove." - James Joyce
Today's Vanguard Video is Creative Writing Masterclass 3: Plot - the third in a five-part series of creative writing lectures by the acclaimed Scottish young adult novelist, Keith Gray. Enjoy!