Maeve Binchy, who has died aged 72 following a short illness, was one of the most prolific and respected writers and journalists of her generation.
She was a former women’s editor and London editor of the Irish Times, a best-selling novelist and also a larger-than-life character with a flair for telling a good story, both verbally as well as in print. She had a fund of anecdotes and could charm any audience with her wit and insights.
Maeve was born in Dalkey, Co Dublin, in May 1940 and was educated at the Holy Child Convent and later at University College Dublin.
She taught in a number of schools in the Dublin area before starting a career with the Irish Times. In 1968, she became women’s editor, during the editorship of the charismatic Douglas Gageby, and in this key role she brought a lively new dimension to the paper.
She was promoted to London editor in the 1970s, at a time when a clear line on Anglo-Irish relationships was of paramount importance during one of the worst periods of the Troubles.
She combined daily journalism with fiction writing and in 1982 published her first novel, Light A Penny Candle, which launched her into a highly successful literary career.
She wrote 16 novels, four collections of short stories, a play and a novella. Two of her early novels, The Lilac Bus and Echoes, were made into television films, while her best-selling books Tara Road and Circle of Friends became feature films.
While in London, she met her future husband, Gordon Snell, a well-known children’s book author.
In her later career, she returned with Gordon to live in Dublin, where she continued her voluminous output during a writing career in which she sold more than 40 million books worldwide.
For a long period she also contributed witty and observant articles to The Irish Times.
One of the strongest features of her writing was her eye for a telling detail and her gift for observing the human condition. She once told a Belfast audience about having breakfast with her husband in an Eastbourne hotel and asking him not to disturb her concentration. She said, “I’m eavesdropping on the couple at the next table. The lady has just asked for a divorce and also for the custody of their dog. There’s a good story in there somewhere.”
Maeve is survived by her husband and by her brother William, and sister, Joan. She was pre-deceased by another sister, Renee.