There can’t be a bookshelf in England that doesn’t have a copy of something by Maeve Binchy tucked away on it somewhere. The sight of one of those reassuringly fat spines, creased and cracked through being read, lent, borrowed and then re-read, is a familiar one to any booklover, for she is one of our best loved authors, the queen of the comfort read. When she passed away last year, it was the end of an era of legendary storytelling, but there is no doubt she will live on forever in her books.
Comforting, page-turning and believable – for me, these are the key characteristics of a Maeve Binchy novel, all delivered in a voice which is reassuringly confident and unwavering. The best authors are not afraid to be themselves when they write, and to read a Maeve is to know her: warm, witty and wise to the core. It’s almost as if you have her in the room with you as you read, confiding what happens next.
Her stories usually feature a large ensemble cast of characters who have been brought together by chance and whose paths cross, wittingly or unwittingly. From an Italian evening class to an upmarket restaurant to a heart clinic, their fates are ingeniously woven together. As a reader you feel as if you are there amongst them, and that you yourself might have some impact on the outcome.
Maeve specialised in family and friendships and their complexities, for she knew better than anyone that no relationship ever stays the same. She was never afraid to tackle difficult and dark subjects, subjecting her characters to any number of issues, from drink problems to infidelity to financial ruin. This ability to tackle relatable dilemmas and their impact on everyday life gives her work an edge and a bite which makes it very real indeed. Yet there is always an air of optimism, a sense that everything will be all right in the end, and it is that which makes her books so satisfying, and so uplifting, and why people return to her again and again.
We asked you to choose your favourite from the list below: an almost impossible task, but the winning title will be back in Tesco stores for everyone to enjoy, whether it’s for the first or the hundredth time.
So, check back here on 12th September to see which book was voted the #FaveMaeve!
Circle of Friends centres around a group of university students and was made into a feature film starring Minnie Driver.
Evening Class features the Signora and her students, with whom she wants to share her love of Italy – but they all end up sharing their secrets and dreams.
Scarlet Feather focuses on a pair of friends starting up a catering business, and the impact that has on their loved ones.
Tara Road explores a house swap between two women, one in Dublin and one in New England, a swap that will change their lives.
Nights of Rain and Stars is set in a Greek taverna, where four strangers meet and witness a tragedy that brings them together.
Minding Frankie is the story of a young man who finds a baby unexpectedly thrust upon him, and how that turns his life around.