On July 30, 2012, Irish author Maeve Binchy died at the age of 72. Her books, translated into 37 languages, sold more than 40 million copies. More importantly, she was probably Ireland's best-loved author. She was certainly one of my best-loved authors.
Her first novel, Light a Penny Candle, was published in 1982, which happened to be the year of my first visit to Ireland. I bought that book in an Irish bookstore. I was discovering the thrill of buying books unavailable in the U.S., and this wasn't the first one I read. Only when I got home did I open it.
Though much of the novel takes place in England, it has plenty of Irish scenes, particularly set in the Dublin area. In my visit to Dublin, I had seen Dean Swift's church to the birthplaces of Yeats, Wilde, and countless settings for Ulysses. Dublin seems to live and breathe great literature.
In reading Binchy's novel, I discovered a different Dublin and a different Ireland, the home of people, who, while they had a lot of problems, cared about each other and came to solutions. In many ways, her novel Circle of Friends, which was made into a movie, was her breakthrough work. In a greater sense, though, all of her books are about circles of friends who help each other through the rough patches of life.
This quote from her describes her far better than I could:
"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."
Though I never personally met her, I will miss her greatly.