By Maeve Binchy
$24.95 Orion Pub Group
Many women readers will know the stories of Maeve Binchy as chatty, curl-up-on-a-rainy-day reads. A bit of gossip, a bit of romance, broken hearts and mostly happy endings. If the object is escaping the daily round, then Maeve was your go-to author.
In 1968, Maeve Binchy became the women’s editor of The Irish Times; she contributed holiday travels and daily observations. She continued in this vein for nearly 50 years, in addition to making her mark in the literary world with 15 novels and some short story collections.
This book is made up of the best of those columns in The Times, and would probably be enjoyed by those of us who have had a few birthdays or a reader keen to read some entertaining social history. Maeve is quite opinionated in the beginning, mellowing at the end of the book, covering from the 1960s to the 2000s.
In the ’60s, among other pieces, Maeve tells about The Nonsense of Etiquette. In the ’70s, she swoons along with all of us over the wedding of Charles and Diana. (Later she covers the marriage of Prince Charles and Camilla, quite a different matter.) By 2011, she admits Will and Kate have polished the Royal image again.
There is a thoughtful piece on the right to die discussion in the section taken from the 1980s, along with a discussion about the changing laws related to contraception use (this is Ireland and things did not move along all that quickly).
I particularly liked the coverage on Margaret Thatcher. Maeve had moved to London by this time and began, like many others, admiring the first lady prime minister.
She tells how the government issued bulletins advising people to “check on elderly neighbours.” The government was doing little to help the poor and this was their best advice.
Binchy is not only gossipy and funny, she doesn’t miss anything. The piece called The Man Who Set Up Office In the Ladies is right out of a Monty Python sketch.
There are Ten Things You Must Never Say to Anyone With Arthritis worth checking out. This piece comes with advice for making public places more accessible to the disabled.
The best article in the whole book, in my opinion is titled Getting It Right At The End. Here is the visit to the dying friend and the non- conversation that takes place. There are the platitudes and outright lies that hinder any meaningful dialogue. Maeve had a friend who had been given three months to live. She asked him, “What were the best things people could do, and what were the worst?” He told her what he thought and his answer will make us all think.
You could do worse than put the kettle on, make a large cup of tea and read this. Maeve is wise and garrulous, and she reminds the reader of times past and deeply held values.
Peggy Freeman is a local freelance books reviewer.