The Blagger's Guide To: Maeve Binchy

Being dead won't stop her breaking publishing records

The "Queen Mum of literature", Maeve Binchy, goes on breaking records four months after her death. Her new novel, A Week in Winter, has just been published posthumously and has already become the most pre-ordered book ever. To be clear: that's more pre-orders than J K Rowling's The Casual Vacancy, or any of the Harry Potters, or even Pippa Middleton's hotly awaited party planning book, Celebrate. Binchy was polishing the final draft of the novel, about a fictional Irish seaside town, when she died in July, and it has now been published by Orion (£18.99).

Binchy was born in May 1940, the eldest child of four, to William Binchy, a solicitor, and Maureen, a nurse. She grew up in Dalkey, a suburb of Dublin, and went to school at the Holy Child convent in Killiney. When she was 21, she became a teacher of French, Latin and history. It was when she spent a few weeks on a kibbutz in Israel that the Irish Independent began publishing her warm and funny letters home. As a result, Binchy was offered a job on the Irish Times, where she remained a columnist for 32 years.

Her first novel, Light a Penny Candle, received a record advance for 1983: £52,000. Unlike many record advances, this one actually made back its money for the publisher, Century, selling millions of copies around the world. Five publishers had previously turned down the book. Depending on where you are reading this, you can probably hear them still kicking themselves.

As a spectacularly successful writer of romantic fiction, Binchy was no dupe when it came to unsatisfactory love affairs in other people's novels. She was not a fan of the "romance" between Max and Mrs de Winter in Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, for instance, and once opined that the sequel should begin: "Last night I dreamed I went to see my solicitor and began the whole business of getting shot of Max."

Binchy was the author of 16 novels, four short-story collections, a play and a novella, which between them sold between 45 and 50 million copies around the world, and has been translated into 37 languages. Tara Road, Circle of Friends and How About You have also been adapted into films. She has outsold Irish writers such as James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Edna O'Brien and W B Yeats, and she came third in the 2000 World Book Day poll of Britain's favourite authors. On her death, she received tributes from writers including Jilly Cooper, Marian Keyes and Ian Rankin. Hundreds of mourners, including authors and politicians, turned up at her funeral in August.

Binchy was known for her "quiet feminism". She once explained: "I don't have ugly ducklings turning into swans in my stories. I have ugly ducklings turning into confident ducks."

Binchy insisted on paying her dues in Ireland, even though, as an "artist", her literary earnings could have been tax free. That's a nice idea, isn't it, internet book retailers?

Shortly after her death, the Merriman Summer School in Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare, to which Binchy was a frequent visitor, announced a short story competition in her honour. Appropriately, Lisdoonvarna is home to one of the world's most famous matchmaking festivals, which attracts 40,000 dewy eyed romantics to a month-long event run by the local matchmaker, Willie Daly.

Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL are releasing Plectrum Electrum next month

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Arts and Entertainment
John Kearns winner of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award with last years winners: Bridget Christie and Frank Skinner
comedyJohn Kearns becomes the first Free Fringe act to win the top prize
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Sue Vice
booksAcademic says we should not disregard books because they unexpectedly change genre
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Muscato performs as Michael Crawford in Stars in Their Eyes

TV
Arts and Entertainment
‘Game of Thrones’

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
    Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

    Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

    As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
    Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

    A tale of two writers

    Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
    Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

    Should pupils get a lie in?

    Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
    Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

    Prepare for Jewish jokes...

    ... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
    SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

    A dream come true for SJ Watson

    Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
    Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

    Paul Scholes column

    Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?