The best selling author Maeve Binchy is being mourned as a “national treasure” after a long health battle that spanned more than three decades.
The writer of more than 16 novels died peacefully in hospital late on Monday night of complications from a long-standing heart condition.
Her husband of 35 years, Gordon Snell – to whom Binchy dedicated all of her books – was by her side.
At the time of her death, Binchy had been putting the finishing touches to what has turned out to be her final work – a book of interlinking short stories described by her publishers as “vintage Maeve”.
Entitled ‘A Week in Winter’ and set in a beautiful old cliffside hotel in the west of Ireland, it will be published by Orion and is due to arrive in bookshops on October 11.
Orion publishing director Susan Lamb said Binchy had still been “polishing” the text before she went into hospital for the last time.
Ms. Binchy’s 16 novels, which have been translated into dozens of languages, have sold tens of millions of copies. Her best known include her first, “Light a Penny Candle,” published in Britain in 1982; “Circle of Friends” (1990), made into a 1995 feature film starring Minnie Driver and Chris O’Donnell; and “Tara Road” (1998), an Oprah’s Book Club selection that became a 2005 movie starring Andie MacDowell and Olivia Williams.
Tending toward phonebook heft — several approached 600 pages — Ms. Binchy’s books typically centered on Irishwomen’s lives at midcentury. Reviewers praised her strong characterizations; cleareyed depiction of women’s friendships; and evocative settings, often involving Irish village life in all its social stratification.
Though her pages were rife with faithless lovers, alcoholism, unwanted pregnancies and even murder, Ms. Binchy resisted being described as a romance novelist. For one thing, she pointed out, her heroines were less inclined to win the dashing hero than they were to learn to live, quite capably, without him.
“Nowadays women realize that they are dealt a hand of cards and must play it,” she told The Chicago Tribune in 1999. “There are no makeovers in my books. The ugly duckling does not become a beautiful swan. She becomes a confident duck able to take charge of her own life and problems.”
Mrs Binchy’s health problems began with hip surgery in the 1980′s that left her unable to stand or even sit comfortably for very long which was compounded by a bout with severe arthritis. She also suffered a heart attack in 2002 before finally suffering from heart complications Monday.
Her death notice describes her as the dearly beloved wife and best friend of Gordon Snell. She is also survived by her sister Joan, her brother William, family and a wide circle of friends.
Maeve Binchy will be privately cremated after a funeral mass in her hometown of Dalkey, Co Dublin on Friday.