Maeve Binchy Short Stories

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Book at Bedtime on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 17-21 December 2012
Maeve Binchy (1940-2012) was best-known as a novelist preoccupied with small-town Ireland, with an ability to create memorable characters.  Works such as Circle of Friends (1990) and Tara Road (1998) were filmed with varying degrees of success.
In tribute to her achievement, Radio 4 broadcast five of her short stories in its Book at Bedtime strand. Read by Frances Tomelty, Jenny Agutter, Sean Campion, and Stella McCusker, they were all transmitted at various times from 1992 onwards.  Some of them were specially written for radio; other were adaptations of originally published material. 
This retrospective not only reminded us of the length of Binchy's career as a novelist and dramatist (she wrote several plays for RTE, as a glance at her page on Wikipedia reveals), but also gave some insight into her unique qualities as a writer.  She communicated a strong sense of place: most of the stories were set in local communities, some of them established, others undergoing profound change.  More importantly she was keenly aware of her characters' inner conflicts; their desire to achieve professional success, balanced against their need to sustain human contact.  Sometimes they were lonely, and looked for ways of alleviating their pain; on other occasions they reflected on more basic issues, such as their relationship with those closest to them.
Such themes are, of course, the very stuff of fiction; but what distinguished Binchy's style of writing was its accessibility; we were given a unique insight into the ways in which her characters' minds worked.  The five readers all communicated the lyrical qualities of her prose; above all these stories were a pleasure to listen to.  Whoever had the idea of compiling this tribute should be congratulated on their initiative.