Review: 'Maeve Binchy: The Biography' recollects Irish writer's wit but offers few insights
“Maeve Binchy: The Biography” is a loving tribute to the popular Irish writer who died two years ago at the age of 72. And much like its subject, the book is at times smart, often entertaining and not without flaws.
Piers Dudgeon, who has written biographies of writers Barbara Taylor Bradford, J.M. Barrie and Daphne du Maurier, does a deft job juxtaposing the allegorical nature of Binchy's fiction to events in her life. Universal as well as personal themes including self-discovery (“Circle of Friends”), childlessness (“The Copper Beach”) and betrayal (“Tara Road”) take on a new level of meaning. To know Binchy's world, you must know her fiction.
There is no doubt Dudgeon is a fan of his subject, and therein lies the biography's problem.
His Binchy is more a personality than a real person, facing any and all obstacles with her characteristic wit. His sources seem to be admirers or people on the periphery of her life rather than intimates, giving the biography a sense of superficiality.
We are introduced to Binchy the Irish Catholic, the dutiful student, the brief atheist, the existentialist, the teacher, the traveler, the journalist, the playwright and the novelist. Her marriage to producer and children's book author Gordon Snell did not produce children, but did produce a robust working relationship where the couple wrote daily, side by side.
Binchy came of age in the 1960s and into her own professionally in the 1970s. The author's travels are just touched upon. Such moments seem ripe for further examination but are dropped.
At best, fans will find new insight to their favorite Binchy works.
Perhaps a future biographer will deliver a more complete reconstruction of her life story.
Mary Cadden is a staff writer for USA Today.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Reissue of book of album covers by Andy Warhol shows many sides of his art
- Stanton Heights poet Collins works to keep his words full of meaning
- Film critic revisits a lifetime at the movies
- Review: Karolina Waclawiak’s novel ‘The Invaders’ continues her fascination with being on the outside
- Review: Gayle Lunds’ ‘The Assassins’ has fast pace, many twists
- Pittsburgh police officer David Shifren leaves streets, hits the pages
- Pittsburgh provides setting for Mt. Lebanon author’s romance novels
- Review: In the great beach read “China Rich Girlfriend,” Jane Austen meets Singapore
- Interest in people brings diversity to Pitt professor’s award-winning poetry