I didn’t know Maeve at all personally, but through her work I felt very close to her. For many years I’d been very sceptical about her writing, perceiving it to be ‘family sagas’ and therefore more fit for my mam’s bookshelf than my own. Then in a moment of abstraction/boredom I picked up Evening Class and my world turned around.
To me, Maeve will always be the queen of the well-drawn character. All her books are peopled with, well, real people. They simply spring off the page and you know you could meet any of them during your daily life. Whether you love them, loathe them or, in the case of Scarlet Feather’s Simon and Maude Mitchell, want to strangle them, that was Maeve’s great power – she made you care about them. Each character was beautifully drawn and evoked exactly the emotion Maeve wanted you to feel.
Evening Class will always be my favourite. It made me want to do an Italian evening class, but I knew I’d never be able to find a teacher as good as ‘Signora’. There are a lot of people and a lot of different points-of-view in Evening Class and it would be easy for these to become muddled, but in Maeve’s hands this was not allowed to happen. I loved the way everyone in the class was somehow connected. In the hands of a lesser writer, you might roll your eyes and say ‘how convenient’ but somehow Maeve made it realistic.
Not only was she a fantastic writer, she was also generous enough to share her experience and pearls of wisdom through a writing guide The Maeve Binchy Writers’ Club. I can only wish that it had been an actual club and that I’d had the opportunity to be taught by her in person. My impression was always that, despite her success, she was never big-headed about it, and seemed determined to inspire the next generation of writers. It’s yet another fantastic book by Maeve and is a must-read for writers. It certainly inspired me and made me think that from humble beginnings, great things can grow.
So Maeve may have left us, but while her books remain on bookshelves everywhere we have a great legacy and a great way to remember her for years to come.
Thanks Maeve, for everything.