Saturday, November 17, 2012

'In Memory of Maeve Binchy' at Dublin Book Festival

'Patricia Scanlon, Sheila O'Flanagan and Sinead Moriarty- three of Ireland's top female writers come together to reveal how the legendary author Maeve Binchy inspired their writing and helped to pave the way, not only for them, but for a host of Irish female writers over the years.'(Festival programme notes.)
The talk 'In memory of Maeve Binchy' was chaired by Mary Maher, journalist and great friend of Maeve's.
To a nearly full theatre of women of a certain age and maybe ten men the three authors Patricia Scanlon, Sinead Moriarty and Sheila O'Flanagan took their seats to speak of Maeve Binchy. Mary Maher, who pointed out that Maeve's sister Joan and brother Gordon were present, started the conversation with a history of Maeve's career. Maeve, a teacher in the late 1960s, traveled a lot and used to write letters home to her father of her journeys. Her father sent these letters into The Irish Times who published them. Soon Maeve became a regular contributor and was thinking of giving up teaching to become a journalist. In 1968 Mary worked in The Irish Times where there was a need for a women's editor. The rather eccentric editor at that time suggested Maeve would be 'great craic' in the role!

Mary said how Maeve had a wonderful gift of understanding and of what women's problems were and that being a journalist had helped Maeve to write fiction. She told of how during an election report Maeve went not to the candidates for comment but straight to the people, in this case right into the middle of a housing estate. She said how Maeve's values could be seen in her work -her model for life was you must play the cards you get and have room in your life for redemption or for resolving your problems. Maeve's novels, Mary pointed out, are full of grief, trouble, pain and mistake but redemption was always possible.

Sheila O'Flanagan spoke of her admiration of Maeve Binchy's Circle Line and Victoria Line short story collections. She told of how she had read them as a teenager. pointing out that Maeve's last book A Week in Winter is an interlinking short story collection. She had found each of Maeve's short stories so perfect. Until then nothing had grabbed her as Maeve's writing did- this was about how people felt.  Laughing, Sheila told how her first short story collection was called Destinations - set on the DART, but Maeve didn't mind!

Sinead Moriarty came across Maeve's work with Light A Penny Candle and she remembers the pride she felt that Maeve was an Irish author. She commented that there was a lot of darkness in her books, destructive relationships, but that people are redeemed. Maeve was the first Irish woman that Sinead knew who was successful on a global scale but with the stories still set in Ireland.

Patricia Scanlon caught up with Maeve Binchy with the novel Circle of Friends. Talking of her Irish Times columns she said she found her writing to be humorous and beautifully observed showing that she knew human nature. She felt Maeve had little touches such as a sense of place; reading stories in rural settings, you were in the village with its rural goings on and its petty snobbishness. Patricia said how when she had dreamt herself of being a novelist she had got great advice from Maeve at a talk in a Dublin library on choosing an agent. She said how Maeve was not a diva and was delighted by others success and how she cheered and encouraged with a generosity of spirit .

Many members of the audience exchanged anecdotes of theirs about Maeve, each telling of her kindness and generosity. With a warm feeling in the room Mary Maher closed the talk thanking each of the writers for their contributions.

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