Dear Maeve Binchy,

I’m sorry that I never read your books while you were still alive. I committed the book crime of judging books based on covers, dismissing yours as the love of old women, confident that I had all the time in the world to enjoy them in my golden years.

I didn’t know that your books were filled with characters at all stages of life, trying to make the best of what life threw at them. I didn’t know that your stories were such a delight, showing me that anything is possible with a little hard work and the right attitude.

I didn’t know that I would come to view Circle of Friends as one of my favourite books of all time, that I would become personally invested in the lives of Benny and Eve and all of their friends in Dublin and Knockglen. I had no idea that Heart and Soul would provide me with an early glimpse of some my friends on St. Jarlath’s Crescent that I so adored in Minding Frankie. Whitethorn Woods is sitting on my desk right now, waiting for my attention because I know that it will allow me to get to know a character that was passing through in Heart and Soul.

I love that your books make those kinds of connections.

I never knew that your books were like a cozy fire on a grey day. Or that your books would have the power to make me completely forget about my commute, being in very great danger of missing my stop altogether if I didn’t ride the line end to end. I can’t even classify your books as a guilty pleasure because I don’t hide them from anyone. And if anyone asks me about your books now, I make an effort to convert them to my way of thinking, now I know that people that don’t read your books are missing out on one of the great pleasures of reading life.

And I’m sad that I didn’t find all of these things out until you were gone. It was because of your passing that my ignorance of your brilliance was first revealed and in order to please my friends I went to the library to introduce myself to your work.

All the books you will ever write are out there now so I will have to pace myself. I know it was a lovely surprise when your posthumous novel A Week in Winter was released but there will be no more new Maeve Binchys. I know I would have been among the first to buy your new books, even if they were in hardcover.

So I’m sorry that I didn’t know until now. But I swear I’m making up for it.


The Paperback Princess



Circle of Friends

After I finish slogging through a book I didn’t love, I always try and find something that I know I will love. Just to get my book mojo back, so to speak. Sometimes that means reading an old favourite and other times it means trusting in the genius of a particular author that hasn’t disappointed me yet.

This time, I went with the latter.

My go to? Maeve Binchy.

I have to thank the ladies in my book club for my newfound love of Maeve Binchy. I’d seen her books everywhere for as long as I could remember but I’d always dismissed them as romances. Not my thing. After Ms. Binchy passed away last year, there was a lot of twitter talk about her. And 2 of my friends in book club were a part of that. They were astounded when I told them that I’d never read any of her work and recommended some titles to get me started.

Their first recommendation was Circle of Friends, which I could never find at the library. So I read Minding Frankie and Tara Road to get started on Maeve Binchy love. I ended up buying Circle of Friends recently.

There is something so satisfying about choosing a book you know you will love and then loving it even more. I loved Minding Frankie (so much crying) but I’m pretty sure that Circle of Friends just usurped it as my favourite Binchy book.

Maeve Binchy was an incredibly talented story teller. She had a gift of taking an entire village or community and making you care about all of them in different ways.

Circle of Friends starts off as the story of Benny Hogan and Eve Mahon, who are raised in tiny Knockglen and dream of going to university in Dublin. Benny’s parents’ lives revolve around Benny who is overprotected to the max while Eve’s parents died when she was a baby and she was raised in the convent by nuns. On their first day in Dublin when they are 18, a car accident throws them into a new group of friends and we follow them through their first year in university.

And it’s SO GOOD. I never wanted to stop reading it – I ignored a hockey game and stayed up way past my bedtime to finish it and then I was sad because it was over.

You know what I’ve noticed about Binchy’s books? Her heroines never need a man to complete their happiness. Seriously. They might have boyfriends or husbands or they might not, but ultimately their happiness never depends on being part of a couple. Their marriage might collapse or their husbands might die and they will still have a life afterwards. Or a guy will just decide it’s not for him and the girl will at first be devastated but eventually she will be totally ok with it. It’s very refreshing actually.

I still have A Week in Winter sitting on my shelf for me to read, but if you’re familiar with Binchy’s work, which one do I still have to read?