Irish Book Awards

Death of Ireland’s Most-Beloved Author

July 31, 2012

The death of the most beloved of Irish writers, Maeve Binchy, leaves us saddened and bereft. Her loss will be felt acutely, not just here in Ireland but internationally where her books sold in quantities equalled only by major literary lights such as Stephen King, Danielle Steel and John Grisham.  Through her writing, she made millions of readers feel as if they knew her personally.  A woman of great personal warmth and humour, she wrote just as she spoke, from the heart in a spirit imbued with her own unique understanding of the human comedy.  She had more than Noel Coward’s “talent to amuse”; she had what so few have, a genuine talent for happiness, a happiness shared not just with her husband and soulmate, Gordon Snell, but with anyone lucky enough to encounter her.

Maeve’s literary achievements were massive but she wore her success lightly and showed an unparalleled generosity to other writers, encouraging them, praising their work and urging them to be the best they could be.  Within the world of Irish books, Irish culture and Irish life, she was universally loved and it’s deeply gratifying to reflect how Maeve was able to join us to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from President Mary McAleese at the 2010 Irish Book Awards Dinner.  Such a night could have been an ordeal for her but she was determined to attend and thoroughly enjoyed her night out.  We, in the book-trade, owe much to Maeve Binchy.  Her books offered a massive annual boost in a tough business and she had time for everybody involved, remembered our names and thought, wrongly, that we were every bit as great as she was.

People like Maeve Binchy do not come along very often.  We were privileged to know her and as time passes, her reputation, her legend will only grow larger.  If you’re religious, light a penny candle for Maeve; if you’re not, raise a parting glass to her memory.  Better still, go to your bookshelves, take down one of her marvellous books and re-read it.  You will be the better for it.

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