Maeve Binchy Criticism - Essay

Dennis Drabelle (review date 1 May 1983)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Light a Penny Candle, in Washington Post Book World, Vol. 13, No. 18, May 1, 1983, p. 10.

[In the following review, Drabelle offers a positive assessment of Light a Penny Candle, but argues that the novel drags toward the end.]

[Light a Penny Candle] is worth reading for its insults alone. Much of it takes place in the clannish Irish village of Kilgarret, where—abstinence being the only permissible birth-control method—the field of sibling rivalry can expand to near-geopolitical proportions. In this setting privacy is harder to maintain than prosperity, and the frustrated inhabitants cope with their confinement by lashing...

(The entire section is 501 words.)

Susan Dooley (review date 11 September 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Great Pretenders: Maeve Binchy's Vivid Family of Characters,” in Washington Post Book World, September 11, 1989, p. D3.

[In the following positive review, Dooley lauds Binchy's characterization in Silver Wedding.]

[In Silver Wedding,] Desmond Doyle, meek and mild and married almost 25 years to Deirdre O'Hagan, remembers a promise he made to her. He would be a success, he had vowed. He would show her stiff-necked and proper Dublin parents that a poor boy from a stony farm in the west of Ireland could make good.

He hadn't, of course, though they pretended he had. They pretended also that their son Brendan hadn't fled the suburban...

(The entire section is 750 words.)

Carolyn See (review date 14 January 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Subversive Lessons in a Circle of Friends,” in Los Angeles Times, January 14, 1991, p. E3.

[In the following positive review, See argues that Circle of Friends is a “subversive” and “inventive” novel.]

Most novels—wittingly or not—present themselves as more than they are: A love story will play out against a war; a historical novel has “history” to jack it up into respectability.

But Circle of Friends presents itself as something less than it is: Just another tale of two girls growing up in the 1950s in a tiny Irish village, and coming of age during their first university year in Dublin. (Personally...

(The entire section is 734 words.)

Susan Dooley (review date 7 November 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Binchy's Bumpy ‘Bus’ Ride,” in Washington Post Book World, November 7, 1991, p. C3.

[In the following mixed review, Dooley asserts that Binchy lacks sympathy for the characters in The Lilac Bus.]

Along the roads of Ireland are signs bearing big, black dots—a reminder to those driving by that at this spot an automobile skidded or smashed and a soul went shooting up to Heaven. Ireland is a country that keeps track of its disasters.

Disasters there have always been, adding themselves up through centuries of poverty and repressive English rule, until the people learned how to turn in on themselves, to become secretive in order to...

(The entire section is 769 words.)

Carolyn See (review date 25 November 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Those Big City Lights vs. Life in the Countryside,” in Los Angeles Times, November 25, 1991, p. E6.

[In the following review, See argues that the main theme of both Circle of Friends and The Lilac Bus is the tension between life in Dublin versus life in the surrounding rural villages.]

In different times, Ireland had James Joyce as its dour spokesman; now, the people who really speak for that sad and lovely isle are the lyrical, metaphysical Van-the-Man Morrison, and—far more down to earth—the prolific novelist, Maeve Binchy.

This writer has zigzagged from earlier work that is frankly “women's fiction,”...

(The entire section is 567 words.)

Maeve Binchy with Katharine Weber (interview date 26 October 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Maeve Binchy,” in Publishers Weekly, Vol. 239, No. 47, October 26, 1992, pp. 42, 44.

[In the following interview, Binchy discusses her childhood in Ireland, her publishing history, and her writing style.]

“Maeve's already here,” says the desk clerk at Arbutus Lodge in Cork City, where PW is meeting Ireland's bestselling and most beloved living author. Maeve Binchy has driven down from Dublin this morning, and as we introduce ourselves she explains with an infectious laugh that she's early since she allowed extra time, “because I'm a terrible driver. I only got my license four years ago, if you can imagine that. Most people won't admit to being...

(The entire section is 2083 words.)

Maeve Binchy (essay date July 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Gold at the Rainbow's End,” in Books, Vol. 7, No. 4, July, 1993, p. 4.

[In the following essay, Binchy discusses her relationship with and the inspiration that she draws from her homeland, Ireland.]

Maeve Binchy's newest bestseller [The Copper Beech] follows the fortunes of eight children who carve their names on the copper beech tree behind the school in Shancarrig. Twenty years later, they gather to see the school house sold at auction. For each, their home town holds special memories—some too private ever to be told. With her warmth and humour, Maeve Binchy uncovers long-hidden secrets and shows how extraordinary stories can...

(The entire section is 955 words.)

Patricia Craig (review date 16 September 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “A Woman Away,” in Times Literary Supplement, No. 4772, September 16, 1994, p. 20.

[In the following review, Craig offers a negative assessment of The Glass Lake.]

At the centre of Maeve Binchy's plot [in The Glass Lake] is a burned letter—a device well established for giving an askew turn to events that might otherwise have proceeded straightforwardly. It is 1952, and we are in a sleepy Irish town called Lough Glass, which really means “the green lake,” though the descriptive word is picturesquely mistranslated as “glass,” giving rise to romantic reflections on the subject of reflections. Kit McMahon is the chemist's daughter in Lough...

(The entire section is 604 words.)

Susan Dooley (review date 7 March 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Death and Life in Ireland,” in Washington Post Book World, March 7, 1995, p. E2.

[In the following review, Dooley offers a mixed assessment of The Glass Lake.]

Reading a Maeve Binchy novel is as cozy and comforting as climbing into a warm bed on a cold night. Bad things happen to her people and sad things, too, but in Binchy's hands these become lessons learned and wisdom gained. As in previous novels, her story [in The Glass Lake] revolves around a small Irish village, a closely interwoven world where security is the prize and privacy the price. You'll not find any of these villagers embracing the casual confessional style of TV talk shows,...

(The entire section is 800 words.)

Maeve Binchy with Mike Burns (interview date April 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Maeve Binchy,” in Europe, Vol. 345, April, 1995, pp. 22–25.

[In the following interview, Binchy discusses her novels, her success with writing, and her journalism background.]

The Irish author Maeve Binchy has a long list of international best-sellers to her name (Light a Penny Candle, London Transports, Firefly Summer, Silver Wedding, The Lilac Bus). Her latest book The Glass Lake was published last month in the U. S. by Delacorte Press.

Her books have sold millions of copies worldwide. A number have been made into films, including Circle of Friends, which has just been released in the...

(The entire section is 3203 words.)

Mary Kay Zuravleff (review date 2 March 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “A Dublin Commedia dell'Arte,” in Washington Post Book World, Vol. XXVII, No. 9, March 2, 1997, p. 5.

[In the following review of Evening Class, Zuravleff argues that—although Binchy is a skilled author—the threads between the different stories in the novel are weak.]

I read [Evening Class] without ceasing—even going so far as to weight it open with a bag of beans at the breakfast table—which explains why I feel a bit highbrow about criticizing it. Obviously, capturing and sustaining a reader's attention require talent, and Maeve Binchy, in her 11th book, Evening Class, shows herself to be a gifted storyteller. If it is true...

(The entire section is 807 words.)

Mona Knapp (review date Winter 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Evening Class, in World Literature Today, Vol. 72, No. 1, Winter, 1998, p. 133.

[In the following review, Knapp offers a positive assessment of Evening Class, but notes that several of the situations in the novel seem contrived and implausible.]

Maeve Binchy's prolific pen has produced a book nearly every year since 1983, including two plays, three volumes of short stories, and close to a dozen novels, of which Circle of Friends (1991) has become widely known through a recent screen adaptation. Binchy's fictional world is comfortably rooted in Irish culture, portrayed as endearing and warmly human (an interesting contrast, for...

(The entire section is 430 words.)

Kim Campbell (review date 16 April 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Short Stories with a Romantic Touch,” in Christian Science Monitor, April 16, 1998, p. 8.

[In the following review, Campbell offers a positive assessment of The Return Journey.]

You've brushed your teeth and climbed into bed, and now comes the big decision: What to read before drifting off to sleep? If brevity is key, Irish author Maeve Binchy's latest collection makes the choice a little easier.

The Return Journey is full of short stories—bite-size reads, really—none of which tops 20 pages. These European-flavored tales all feature a trip of some kind. And, as always with Binchy, there are plenty of relationships (she is,...

(The entire section is 329 words.)

Kim Campbell (review date 11 March 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “A Healing House Swap after Tragedy,” in Christian Science Monitor, March 11, 1999, p. 19.

[In the following review, Campbell offers a mixed assessment of Tara Road, calling the novel “an uncomplicated tale.”]

Diet Coke is a herald of new literature, it seems.

An excerpt from Maeve Binchy's latest novel, Tara Road, has been included with 12-packs in recent weeks. The palm-sized insert intends to lure readers into the world of two women who decide to swap houses after tragedies in their lives.

But the book, a fast read ideal for the beach or a ski lodge, doesn't cut to the chase as quickly as its soda-can...

(The entire section is 437 words.)

Michele Slung (review date 21 March 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “A House Divided,” in Washington Post Book World, Vol. XXIX, No. 12, March 21, 1999, p. 6.

[In the following review, Slung offers a mixed assessment of Tara Road, complaining that the characters and situations of the novel are less compelling than those of her earlier works.]

The bad things that happen to good people are the building blocks of domestic fiction. Husbands and wives wake up strangers, friends betray one another, children die, luck deserts us. As we know, though, culture can influence the way the tale is told, in addition to the outcome.

For Irish novelist Maeve Binchy, for example, the notion of community is paramount....

(The entire section is 789 words.)

Maeve Binchy with Dawn Simonds Ramirez (interview date April 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “An Interview with Maeve Binchy,” in Writer's Digest, Vol. 79, No. 4, April, 1999, p. 6.

[In the following interview, Binchy discusses her writing process and Tara Road.]

Maeve Binchy proved as gracious and charming as her characters when she spoke about her latest book, Tara Road.

[Ramirez:] What's a typical writing day like?

[Binchy:] We live in a very small place in Ireland called Dockey, where I grew up. I'm married to a writer, Gordon Snell, and we regard writing like a job. We race up the stairs at 8 the morning when we have to be at our desks. We rush around the place and say “Gosh, we'll be...

(The entire section is 689 words.)

Jose Lanters (review date Winter 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Tara Road, in World Literature Today, Vol. 74, No. 1, Winter, 2000, p. 72.

[In the following review, Lanters offers a mixed assessment of Tara Road, faulting the novel for not being emotionally or intellectually challenging.]

The dust jacket describes Tara Road as “a moving story rendered with the deft touch of a master artisan”—a reasonably fair assessment of a book which ranks somewhere between a classy soap opera and a romance novel, complete with gratuitous fortune-telling gypsy woman. The main part of the story revolves around two women, one American, one Irish, in whose lives unexpected tragedy has struck. Marilyn,...

(The entire section is 478 words.)

Maeve Binchy with Lewis Burke Frumkes (interview date February 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “A Conversation with Maeve Binchy,” in Writer, Vol. 113, No. 2, February, 2000, pp. 14–15.

[In the following interview, Binchy discusses Tara Road, her career, and Irish literature as a whole.]

Maeve Binchy is the author of Light a Penny Candle, Evening Class, The Glass Lake, The Copper Beech, The Lilac Bus, Circle of Friends, Silver Wedding, Firefly Summer, Echoes, three volumes of short stories, two plays, and a teleplay, which won three awards at the Prague Film Festival. Her latest book, Tara Road, is an Oprah Book Club selection.

[Frumkes:] Maeve,...

(The entire section is 1278 words.)

Cristina Odone (essay date 8 May 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Don't Allow the Clitterati to Make You Feel Inadequate,” in New Statesman, Vol. 129, No. 4485, May 8, 2000, p. 24.

[In the following essay, Odone discusses how Binchy deals with male and female sexuality in her writing.]

The news that Maeve Binchy, Britain's most popular female novelist, is to hang up her pen, has plunged me into despair. Binchy was no Tolstoy, but she served a key social role. She fought the conspiracy to make us, the female readers, feel hopelessly inadequate.

Read trendy young scribblers such as Elizabeth Wurtzel, who has just published a guide to contemporary sexual mores called The Bitch Rules, and you'll see...

(The entire section is 708 words.)