So sad to hear that Maeve Binchy has died. She has been unwell for some time I gather and no new books have appeared for a few years. I have read all of them and enjoyed them thoroughly. I wrote about her some years back and I see no reason to change a word of what I said then:
"There are some authors one reads because they make you feel good, comforted and relaxed, ie - warm and fuzzy. Strangely, these books are seldom those that will be reviewed in the Guardian, the Times or the Independent and literary magazines or, if they do, will be mentioned somewhat slightingly.
I know full well that Maeve Binchy falls into this category. She is a hugely successful writer (I would say 'prolific' but I gather this is a dirty word in certain literary circles...) and all her books top the best seller lists and are sold worldwide. I have read all of them and I read them when I want a book that is not going to upset me, make me mad or bewildered because I don't understand what the author is getting at and I feel a tad dim. Believe me, this happens a lot.
All of Maeve's books have an Irish background, not surprisingly as she is Irish herself, and are based on family relationships and loves. Problems are solved and most endings are happy, though not all. This may makes them sound trite but they are not. I certainly don't get the feeling that Maeve views the world through rose tinted glasses, she is very alive to deceit and deception and human frailties, but as she writes about these subjects in a fluid easy readable style, I think reviewers view her writing as somewhat facile and, therefore, to be dismissed. This is most definitely not the case. She has an eagle eye and is most perceptive.
I have just finished reading Whitethorn Woods (which has been sitting since November on my bookstack so I am now going to cheat and make this one of my Bookstack Challenges!) and today is my last day at home before plunging back into the world of commute and stress tomorrow, so I felt this book would be perfect to calm me down prior to boarding the 7.18 am in the morning.
This story is set in the small town of Rossmore where a well dedicated to St Ann is situated. Though the local people set great store by this well and its miraculous and spiritual properties, others are not so sure, including the local curate who feels it is all superstition. A new bypass is being built and the road will go straight through Whitethorn Woods and the well. Local opinion is divided over this amongst those who wish to retain the well and others who will make huge sums of money selling their land to developers.
This book has 16 Chapters, but really they are a collection of loosely linked short stories, each one told by two protagonists from their point of view. These are not all set in Rossmore but everyone is linked in some way to this town and its fate. Lifelong friends who met on a Kibbutz in Israel visit the shrine to sort out their marriages; a wealthy American who comes back to his childhood town to build a clinic; a childless woman asking for a baby; another asking for a husband - they all have their own reasons for their visits"
In interviews and articles it seemed to me that Maeve was as warm hearted and as understanding as her characters and that there was a little of her in many of them. Booker prize winners are all very well, gritty hard hitting novels are all very well, murder and mayhem have their place, but Maeve had hers too and nobody should think that her books are saccharine or soft in any way. She knew what was what.
My thanks to this wonderful author for many happy reading hours.