Thursday, May 7, 2015

7 Things You Didn't Know About Maeve Binchy And Me

I'm reading Maeve Binchy again. I think I've read almost all of her novels. They're easy to read. It's like sitting at the kitchen table with a friend and have her tell you all the gossip. There are no surprises, everything falls into place for the good guys and the bad get punished.

Sometimes the storylines are too simplistic. In fact it's almost unbelievable how everything falls into place in a Binchy novel. Someone has an idea for a business and with lots of hard work implied, though not felt at all by the reader, it all comes together and two minutes later they are a roaring success.

It's obvious that Binchy never had children of her own as there's often the perfect solution of aquaintances looking after other people's babies and toddlers with no thought to the children who might not be (and often aren't in real life) happy about this arrangement. Single parents work through the night to finish college courses whilst working full time in their day jobs. There's never a shortage of childcare.

Psychological issues and addictions are magically overcome with a bit of effort and support from good friends.

Maybe that's why I like these novels, it's like Disney for real(ish) people.

Minding Frankie. (2 shekels (33p) at the Yedidya Bazaar)

Whilst reading about Binchy's life, I found some amazing parallels with my own life. Here are some things about Maeve Binchy you might not have known and some things about me you might not be interested to know:

1. The oldest of four children, Maeve and her siblings would go down to the beach whilst on holiday and trail their swimsuits in the sea. Then they'd go back to the accommodation and hang their wet suits on the line so their parents would think they'd been for a healthy swim, which they had not.

We have a lot in common Maeve and I. As a child I remember going to great lengths to wet my towel and run the shower over the bath, sprinkle the bath mat with water, wet the soap, etc... to make it look as if I'd had a bath when I hadn't. 

2. She started out as a teacher in a Jewish school in Dublin, teaching French, Latin, and History. In 1963 when she was 24, the parents of the school bought her ticket to Israel. She volunteered on a kibbutz for a few months. Her father typed up her letters from Israel and sent them to a local paper where they were published. This is when she decided to be a writer.

I too started out as a teacher in a Jewish school but the parents gave me a box of chocolates at the end of the year. When I came back from my gap year on a kibbutz in Israel, my mother presented me with a file of my letters that she had kept. I was so embarrassed re-reading them that I threw the whole file in the bin. 

3. Whilst in Israel she went looking for the location of the Last Supper. She was underwhelmed to find just a scraggy hillside. The guard teased her that she expected to find a dining table set for 13. Binchy cried that she had in fact expected just that. After this experience her Catholic faith lapsed somewhat.

I now live about five minutes drive from this spot. Actually I have no idea where it is she went, it could be around the corner for all I know. There's a lot of scraggy hillside around here. 

4. Both her parents died by the time she was 32 and, having sold the family home, she went to live in a bedsit. Why? I don't know but it seems a drastic move for a 32 year old with a career. Why not a flat with a couple of bedrooms?

I have flat with a couple of bedrooms. 

5. Maeve Binchy was 6 foot 1 inch tall. Yes really. 6'1". Who knew?

I'm only 5'3 1/2" but like Binchy, I am overweight. 

6. She married children's author, Gordon Snell in 1977 when she was 38. They lived in London for a while as he worked for the BBC but eventually returned to Ireland.

I've never even been to Ireland but I did live in London for a while. 

7. After being rejected five times her first novel, Light A Penny Candle, was published in 1982 when she was 43 years old. She was paid 52,000 pounds for it - the largest sum ever paid for a first novel. It was gladly received as they were two months behind with the mortgage at the time. When she died, Binchy was one of Ireland's richest women.

I aspire to this. 

OK, so some of the parallels are weak. However, if you want to write novels I suggest you read Maeve Binchy. And then sit down somewhere comfy and pretend you're telling your story to your best friend. Maeve and I do both love a good gossip. I just haven't written mine down yet.


  1. Lovely post. I find Maeve's book the type of book I like to read when I am having problems in life. I find them to be such as easy read with no complicated story lines that I need to get my head around.

    1. Yes, no plot just people living their lives for a while.

  2. It's uncanny. I look forward to your first novel.

    1. LOL, don't hold your breath. Otoh, Maeve does make it look so easy.

  3. I also very much look forward to your first novel. No time like the present to get it started. :-)

  4. Well I think you should get that first novel finished and come to Ireland too xx

  5. I would love to come to Ireland. As for that first novel - I think you have to start it before you can finish it.