Η δημοφιλής Ιρλανδή συγγραφέας Μέιβ Μπίντσι απεβίωσε σε ηλικία 72 ετών
ΑΠΩΛΕΙΑ. Αγαπήθηκε από ένα κοινό εκατομμυρίων γυναικών σε όλον τον κόσμο. Τα βιβλία της πούλησαν περισσότερα από 40 εκατ. αντίτυπα και μεταφράστηκαν σε 37 γλώσσες. Η Μέιβ Μπίντσι, μια γνήσια φωνή της Ιρλανδίας, πέθανε χθες σε ηλικία 72 ετών έπειτα από σύντομη ασθένεια. Οι ιστορίες της, αποτυπωμένες σε δεκάδες πολυσέλιδα μυθιστορήματα, είναι ανεπιτήδευτες, με ζωηρούς χαρακτήρες, συγκίνηση και ανατομία στις οικογενειακές σχέσεις. Αν είχε ένα μυστικό επιτυχίας η Μέιβ Μπίντσι, αυτό ήταν -όπως έλεγε η ίδια- ότι έγραφε όπως μιλούσε. Απλά και ανεπιτήδευτα. «Γίνεσαι πιο πιστευτή όταν μιλάς με τη δική σου φωνή», έλεγε. Ωστόσο, τα βιβλία της δεν ήταν απλοϊκά. Είχαν σύνθετη δράση και εμβάθυνση στους χαρακτήρες. Ηταν από τα καλύτερα δείγματα ψυχαγωγικής λογοτεχνίας, από αυτά που ξέρει να δημιουργεί η ιρλανδική φλέβα. Ο θάνατός της προκάλεσε συγκίνηση και η συμπατριώτισσά της, διάσημη επίσης συγγραφέας Τζίλι Κούπερ, δήλωσε πως «η Μέιβ Μπίντσι είχε γεννηθεί με το χάρισμα της αφήγησης. Ηταν ένας αξιαγάπητος άνθρωπος».
Η Μέιβ Μπίντσι γεννήθηκε στο Δουβλίνο και σπούδασε Ιστορία στο Πανεπιστήμιο του Δουβλίνου. Δίδασκε επί χρόνια σε σχολεία θηλέων, γράφοντας παράλληλα ταξιδιωτικά άρθρα στη διάρκεια των διακοπών, ενώ από το 1969 αρθρογραφούσε με δική της στήλη στους Irish Times. Είναι η συγγραφέας των μυθιστορημάτων: «Light a penny candle», «Echoes», «Firefly Summer», «The Copper Beach», «Γυάλινη λίμνη», «Ο κύκλος των φίλων», «Η τάξη της Σινιόρας», «Τάρα Ρόουντ» (που ξεπέρασε το ένα εκατομμύριο αντίτυπα σε πωλήσεις), «Κόκκινο φτερό», «Κουέντινς» και «Νύχτες βροχής και αστέρων», πολλά από τα οποία έχουν μεταφερθεί στην τηλεόραση και τον κινηματογράφο. Το 1999 τιμήθηκε από τα British Book Awards με το βραβείο Συνολικής Προσφοράς. Στα ελληνικά, βιβλία της κυκλοφορούν από τις εκδόσεις Ωκεανίδα και Bell.
From the time she had her first success, aged 43, with Light A Penny Candle (1982), which remained in the top 10 charts for 53 weeks, Maeve Binchy turned out an unbroken stream of doorstopping bestsellers — Silver Wedding, Firefly Summer, Evening Class, Echoes, The Copper Beech, Circle of Friends, Tara Road — centred around such ordinary events as a wedding anniversary or the building of a hotel. They sold in their millions and were translated into more than 30 languages.
Some critics were mystified by her appeal: “It cannot be said that her prose style is a pleasure to read,” one observed. “It is a little too short on punctuation, and a little too much like being gossiped at by a loquacious neighbour.” Moira Shearer, reviewing The Copper Beech (1992), found it “so bland, so neat and ordered — so nice” that “my own reserves of warmth and understanding were failing fast by the final page”. Maeve Binchy was once described as an “Irish Jackie Collins” — though unfairly, as her stories, while they dealt with human relationships, were conspicuously lacking in raunch.
Yet no amount of high-minded tut-tutting could alter the fact that Maeve Binchy’s books were compulsive page-turners. In a survey of Ireland’s 100 bestsellers in the 20th century compiled in 1998, she took first, third and fourth places, with seven of her books in the top 100, outselling not only Yeats, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, but more recent writers such as Frank McCourt, Roddy Doyle, Seamus Heaney and Edna O’Brien. Her work also spawned two Hollywood films, Circle Of Friends, starring Minnie Driver, and Tara Road, with Andie McDowell.
The appeal of Maeve Binchy’s writing lay in strong characterisation, good storytelling and heart-warming evocations of a cosy world in which good triumphs and community spirit always prevails. In a Maeve Binchy story, people — especially women — survive their troubles by sticking together and providing a shoulder to cry on.
Big, funny and warm, Maeve Binchy was the living embodiment of the novels that made her one of the world’s top-selling authors and one of Britain’s richest women, and her success was testament to the advice so often meted out to aspiring novelists — write what you know.
The eldest of four children, she was born on May 28 1940 at Dalkey, a pretty coastal town south of Dublin, where her father was a barrister; her mother was a former nurse. Maeve attended a nearby convent school.
Although she grew to 6ft tall and was always overweight, she recalled her childhood, thanks to her doting parents, as “secure, safe and happy”: “On the first day of school, my father told me I’d be the most popular girl and everyone would love me and want to be my friend. It wasn’t so, but it gave me an enormous amount of confidence.” When she went to her first dance at 17 her mother said: “You’re so beautiful you take the sight out of my eyes.” Hardly anyone wanted to dance with her, she recalled, “but there was the buoyancy of feeling you were so great”.
Under her parents’ adoring eyes Maeve blossomed into adulthood. A bright child, she went to University College, Dublin, when she was only 16 and afterwards became a history teacher in a girls’ school. She loved it: “I was so tall I could swoop up and down the class and terrify the pupils.” At the age of 23 she lost her religious faith on a trip to Israel after being distinctly unimpressed by the “venue” for the Last Supper — a small cave.
In 1968 she broke into journalism as a columnist for The Irish Times, though she admitted later that she never had the killer instinct to be a good reporter. On one occasion she overheard the former Taioseach Charlie Haughey talking in a disparaging way about some local farmers who were canvassing for him. “I should have reported his words to give an insight to his character but couldn’t bring myself to humiliate those red-faced men who had worked so hard on his behalf,” she recalled. “So I probably wasn’t that good.”
When her mother died suddenly of cancer aged 57 Maeve Binchy stayed at home to look after her father. When he too died, three years later, she sold the family house and moved to a bedsit in Dublin. Aged 29 and unhappy, she developed a phobia about a mouse, drank a lot and had a painful affair with a married man.
In 1971, through friends, Maeve Binchy met the children’s writer Gordon Snell. He was working for the BBC in London and she was, by this time, women’s editor of The Irish Times. After a year flying to see each other at weekends, she asked for the job of the paper’s London correspondent and moved across the Irish Sea. They married in 1977.
She was quite lonely in London, and began to write stories in the evenings to keep herself occupied. She began with two books of short stories, Central Line and Victoria Line, then tackled her first novel at the age of 42.
At the time, she and her husband were two months behind with the mortgage. But in 1983 Light A Penny Candle, a novel which follows the fortunes of two young girls growing up in Ireland in the aftermath of the Second World War, sold for £52,000 — the largest sum ever paid for a first novel — and their problems were solved.
From then on Maeve Binchy churned out an unbroken stream of bestsellers, rattling off her books between 7am and 2pm and only ever writing one draft. Some found it odd that the Troubles in Northern Ireland never featured in her books, but she explained that this was because she wrote only about what she knew — comfortable middle-class Dalkey.
Echoes and The Lilac Bus were both adapted for television. Evening Class, published in 1996, was in The Sunday Times’s top 10 hardback fiction list for 17 weeks running. Her sixth novel, Tara Road (1998), about two women who swap houses, was the first book in the history of fiction to warrant an advance of one million copies in hardback and was outsold in Britain only by Harry Potter and The Highway Code. Her popularity in America rose sharply when the book was chosen by Oprah Winfrey as her book of the month.
When Scarlet Feather came out in 2000 Maeve Binchy announced that it would be her last book. For several years she had suffered from poor health; in 1996, weighing 18 stone, she lost 80 pounds in six months in a drastic 450-calorie-a-day diet to gain a new hip (she turned the experience into a book, Aches and Pains); and later she suffered from heart problems which rendered her virtually housebound.
Despite her promise that she would not be like Frank Sinatra “with lots of farewell concerts”, Maeve Binchy soon came out of retirement due to demand from her fans, penning five further novels — Quentins (2002), Nights of Rain and Stars (2004), Whitethorn Woods (2006), Heart and Soul (2008), and Minding Frankie (2010). A Time to Dance (2006) was a celebration of life in old age.
Maeve Binchy was refreshingly honest about being one of Britain’s richest women, admitting: “I used to think if I was very rich I’d be Mother Teresa and give it all away but of course, when you get it you don’t.” Mother Teresa, she pointed out, “never decided she wanted a conservatory, or that she wanted a better car, or a taxi account”. None the less, Maeve Binchy gave generously to good causes, supporting the hospice movement and cancer, heart and arthritis charities.
Maeve Binchy and her husband were unable to have children, but she remained close to siblings, including her brother William Binchy, Professor of Law at Trinity College, Dublin, a man well known for his intransigent views against divorce and abortion.
“Nothing terrible has ever happened to me,” she told an interviewer. “I met and married the man I love in my thirties when I thought all that had passed me by. Success and money came in my forties, when I’d my head screwed on... I’ve never really searched for success, never felt there was some hole in my life that needed filling. I’ve only ever wanted more of the same.”
Maeve Binchy, born May 28 1940, died July 29 2012