Tag Archives: Maeve Binchy

My Favorite Books Blog Hop – Maeve Binchy’s Light a Penny Candle

Welcome to the My Favorite Books Blog Hop! I’m glad you stopped by. Throughout the month of April, we’ll be hearing from bloggers and fellow bibliophiles about a topic we can’t say enough about — books! Old books, new books, fiction, non-fiction, it doesn’t matter. Everyone is encouraged to participate.

Each Tuesday, I’ll be adding a post about a book that I resonated with me in some way. And I can’t wait to hear from all of you.

A few simple rules:

  1. To participate, scroll down to the bottom, add your name to the list, and grab the link provided. Insert that into the blog post you wish to add.
  2. Make sure the list of attendees is added to your blog post.
  3. Be a good hopper and visit other blogs throughout this event. Be a great hopper and add some comments along the way!

I hope everyone enjoys! Happy Hopping!!

Maeve Binchy’s Light a Penny Candle

They looked at each other for a long time — probably only seconds, but that can be a long time….Maeve Binchy

This week, I’d like to introduce you to Maeve Binchy’s first novel, Light a Penny Candle. Some critics have called it her finest work, although I’d personally say for me it’s a tie with The Glass Lake and Circle of Friends, both of which I enjoy immensely.

Originally published in 1982, the novel takes readers on the journey of two young girls who are forced together thanks to the perils of WWII. Elizabeth White is as timid as it is possible to be. She is totally unprepared for the rough and tumble O’Connor clan and their fiery red-headed daughter, Aisling. Although they are the same age, they are polar opposites in every sense of the word. And yet, the bond that they form is unshakable.

I was born well after WWII ended, but have always had a soft spot for that period of history. This work deftly allows the reader to experience some of the tragedies of war from a unique and often underrepresented point of view, the Irish who hoped to remain neutral during that time.

I’ve often commented on my love of Binchy novels. She is one of my favorite authors. Her command of character development is unrivaled in my humble opinion. There is a realness to the people she writes. You know them. You can see them. They become your friends. These two wonderful characters are no exception.

Through the course of the work, we get to see these two girls grow and mature into confident, determined women. That may be the reason I enjoy this book so much, it’s utterly relatable in almost every aspect. These women suffer the heartbreaks of love, face difficult family circumstances, and struggle to balance work with personal responsibilities. There are tears intermingled with laughter and adventure fraught with painful consequences.

In short, it’s just like real life.

And honestly, like so many other Binchy novels, I didn’t want their story to end. I wanted to see what happened next, what was the next great adventure these two went on together.

I once heard an interview that Binchy gave were she stated that her writing was great to relax with and take to the beach. I believe that’s true. I wouldn’t consider it the hallmark of great literature. And I don’t believe she set out to write such a novel.

What I would consider her novel to be is an in depth snapshot of human nature with all its flaws, insecurities, hopes, and dreams. And that may be the finest aspect of a great storyteller.

Until next week,

Happy Reading!

(Jennifer B. Duffey is the author of two novels and a collection of short stories. To download a free copy of her latest novel, The Face in the Mirror, click here.)


Gift of the Blarney – Famous Irish Authors

Kiss me, I’m Irish!

Well, sort of. I married into a family of Irish descent. That counts, right? (We won’t worry about that divorce today. I mean, everybody’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!)

Admittedly, the vast majority of my family tree comes straight from jolly ol’ England. We’ve found records of our forefathers who were ship builders in Southern England before immigrating to the colonies. There’s even a mention of a great uncle who chose poorly in the War of the Roses. The jury’s still out on his actual ties to the family. For 364 days of the year, I consider myself somewhat of an Anglophile, albeit not as deeply immersed as some.

But, today, like so many other American’s, I’m a bit Irish and I find myself trying to greet everyone with a pathetic imitation of an Irish accent and wearing a bit of green to celebrate the Emerald Isle.

I can honestly say that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve fallen more in love with Ireland than I was in my youth. Not because I’ve been there, although that is on the bucket list, but because of the wonderful Irish writers that I’ve had the pleasure to read over the years. Through each work, I’ve been able to travel to Ireland without leaving the comfort of my home and venture down the streets of Dublin, going to university, and visiting the small country villages along the way.

And so, instead of dwelling on the insane amount of Genius that will be consumed today or commenting on the pounds of dye used to change the river in Chicago green, I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the famous Irish authors and some of the works they’ve contributed to our literary fabric.

  1. Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) Considered by many to be one of the most influential novelists and playwrights of the last century. Was elected Saoi of Aosdana in the Irish Association of Writers. Notable works include Molloy, First Love, and Waiting for Godot.
  2. Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Perhaps one of the most flamboyant of all Irish writers, Wilde is best known for his philosophy of aestheticism, or art for art’s sake. For much of his career, he believed and practiced a writing style that exemplified beauty of the word without searching for deeper meaning. Notable works include The Portrait of Dorian Gray, The Importance of Being Earnest, and An Ideal Husband.
  3. George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) A playwright whose influence can still be felt today, Shaw wrote over 60 plays, received the Nobel Prize for Literature, and won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. He specialized in combining contemporary satire with historical allegory. Notable works include Pygmalion, Saint Joan, and On the Rocks.
  4. Maeve Binchy (1939-2012) One of the most widely recognized Irish writers of modern times, Binchy wrote about human nature and small town Ireland like few others could do. With vivid and detailed character descriptions, Binchy captivated her audience. At the time of her death, her books had sold over 40 million copies and had been translated into 37 different languages. Notable works include Tara Road, The Glass Lake, and Circle of Friends.
  5. Frank Delaney (1942-2017) Noted novelist and journalist, Delaney was known for his epic works. His works Ireland and his non-fiction work Simple Courage: The Story of Peril on the Sea both earned him the distinction of New York Times Best Seller. Other notable works include James Joyce’s Odyssey and Tipperary.
  6. Bram Stoker (1847-1912) Best known for his dark romantic work Dracula, Stoker spent much of his adult career as the business manager for the Lyceum Theatre in London. Although he authored other works, none would ever compete with the success of his most famous novel. Other works include The Snake’s Pass, The Mystery of the Sea, and Miss Betty.
  7. James Joyce (1882-1941) His masterpiece Ulysses is considered by many to be one of the finest pieces of literature of the 20th Century. As a novelist, poet, and short story writer, he was best known for his contributions to the modernist avant-garde movement. Other notable works include Finnegan’s Wake, Dubliners, and A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man.
  8. Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) Known as the foremost prose satirist of the English Language, Swift’s writing is often delivered in a deadpan, ironic manner and is still popular today. Notable works include Gulliver’s Travels, A Modern Proposal, and Drapier’s Letters.
  9. Liam O’Flaherty (1896-1984) Credited as a major figure in the Irish literary renaissance, O’Flaherty was a known socialist and dabbled briefly in politics with his family. He became a founding member of the Communist party in Ireland and is to reported to have laid siege to the Ambassador Cinema in Dublin for four days. Notable works include The Informer, Return of the Brute, and Thy Neighbour’s Wife.
  10. W.B. Yeats (1865-1939) A symbolist poet, Yeats is often considered one of the pillars of modern poetry. He mastered traditional form rather than working with free verse. In addition to his literary career, Yeats was a noted Irish nationalist and served as an Irish senator for two terms. Notable works include The Heart of Spring, A Prayer for My Daughter, and When You Are Old.

Of course, this is in no way a complete list of noted Irish writers. There are far too many to include here. Yet, I hope that you will join me in visiting the Emerald Isle through the written word. As always,

Happy Reading!

 

 

RIP Maeve

Today marks four years since the world lost Maeve Binchy. She was one of my favorite writers. I loved picking up one of her novels and delving into the lives of her characters. She could flesh out the minute details of everyday life in a way that was fascinating and totally related to everything I was going through.

In many ways, she provided the greatest inspiration to my writing. She didn’t write characters, she wrote real people. You could see them, hear them, and feel the joy or pain they were going through. It’s a quality I try to emulate. I want my readers to see my characters in as much detail as we can see hers.

With each book, I was transported to the Emerald Isle. I’ve been to the small town Catholic masses and attended the University College of Dublin. I’ve laughed a lot and cried a little along the way. All these adventures without the expense of a plane ticket, lodging, and food. You see, a good writer has the ability to transport the reader into new worlds.

And Maeve was a immensely gifted writer.

I miss not having the opportunity to read about the new adventures of her characters. I miss walking into a book store and picking up her latest novel. I miss the friends I found on the pages of her books.

If you’ve never taken the opportunity to explore her Dublin, I would highly recommend the journey. Personally, I’d start with some of her early works like Light a Penny Candle or The Glass Lake, both personal favorites of mine. From there, you may want to venture to a more modern day Dublin with Quentins, Evening Class, and Tara Road. And don’t miss out on the coming of age classic, Circle of Friends.

RIP Maeve. You’re still missed by legions of devoted readers.