The Shmooze

Maeve Binchy’s Career Started on a Kibbutz

By Michael Kaminer

  • Print
  • Share Share
Getty Images
Binchy in Chicago in 2001

Maeve Binchy, the mega-selling Irish author who died this week, set most of her stories in her native land.

But the author, who sold more than 40 million books worldwide, may have owed her career to a stay on a kibbutz. Acording to an obituary in the Los Angeles Times, Dalkey-born Binchy graduated from University College in Dublin in 1960 and went into teaching. At 23, she visited an Israeli kibbutz “and wrote letters home describing the experience. She returned to discover her father had persuaded the Irish Times to publish them.”

Binchy became an editor at the paper in 1968. She didn’t publish her first novel, “Light a Penny Candle,” until 1982, the year she turned 42. Like many of her books, it is set in an Irish village and follows two girls growing up in the aftermath of World War II.

She also drew on her Holy Land experiences for “Whitethorn Woods,” her 2007 novel about a spiritual shrine in an Irish village whose namesake woods become threatened by a proposed highway. In it, “Lifelong friends who first met on an Israeli kibbutz visit the shrine to sort out their marriages” — they’re among a number of characters who flock to the mystical well for solace, according to MaeveBinchy.com, the author’s official site, which announced her death.

On the website’s “About Maeve” section, Binchy wrote that her mother was eager to set her up on dates with high-society Dublin gentlemen, but “I was too keen on spending my holidays in far flung places to meet any of these people. The future leaders of society did not holiday on the decks of cheap boats, or work in kibbutzim in Israel or mind children as camp counsellors in the United States.

“She abandoned this hope on my behalf and got great value out of my escapades in foreign parts. I wrote marvellous long rambling letters home from these trips, editing out the bits they didn’t need to know, bits about falling in love with highly unsuitable foreigners. In fact my parents were so impressed with these eager letters from abroad they got them typed and sent them to a newspaper and that’s how I became a writer.”

Binchy was 72.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Kibbutz, Maeve Binchy

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.