Five of Maeve Binchy’s most beloved books and their stage and screen adaptations

It's 10 years since author Maeve Binchy passed away. Here's a reminder of five of her most popular novels 
Five of Maeve Binchy’s most beloved books and their stage and screen adaptations

Maeve Binchy: some of her most beloved novels

Circle of Friends

Love, loyalty and friendship are the focus of this coming-of-age tale centred around a group of university students. It was first published in 1990 and later adapted for screen in a 1995 movie starring Minnie Driver, Chris O’Donnell and Colin Firth.

A stage production is currently running in Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre and has received positive reviews, with the Irish Times noting: “Sally Rooney may have encapsulated the college affair and that particularly Trinity-experience for many contemporary students in Normal People, but this universal, hilarious and heart-breaking adaptation demonstrates that Binchy’s timeless novel can bring so much more.”

Roseanna Purcell (centre) who will play Benny, Juliette Crosbie (left) who will play Nan and Aisling Kearns who will play Eve, at the Gaiety Theatre  for Maeve Binchy’s Circle of Friends presented by Breda Cashe Productions in association with The Gaiety Theatre. Picture: Mark Stedman
Roseanna Purcell (centre) who will play Benny, Juliette Crosbie (left) who will play Nan and Aisling Kearns who will play Eve, at the Gaiety Theatre  for Maeve Binchy’s Circle of Friends presented by Breda Cashe Productions in association with The Gaiety Theatre. Picture: Mark Stedman

Tara Road

Two women, one in Ireland and one in America, looking for an escape swap houses in this 1998 novel, which was described by Elle as “an irresistible tale”...

In 2005 a film starring Andie MacDowell and Olivia Williams was released. Binchy herself even makes an appearance in the opening scene at Colin’s restaurant. On the week of its release, the movie topped the Irish box office, taking more than €200,000.

Light a Penny Candle

Binchy’s decades-long debut novel, published in 1982, deserves a mention here. It follows the friendship of two women, one English and one Irish, who met when the English character stayed in Ireland during the Blitz. A reviewer in the Washington Post was impressed by the debut writer’s skill within its pages, saying it “seems the work of a veteran”. It was adapted into a stage play in 2019 that was directed by Peter Sheridan and performed at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, and Everyman Theatre in Cork.

Evening Class

In 1996, Binchy published Evening Class, which is set, unsurprisingly,around an evening class for Irish people learning Italian and how their lives intermingle over the course of a year.

It later inspired the 2000 Danish feature film, Italian for Beginners. The movie won a Silver Berlin Bear and other major international awards but Maeve Binchy was not paid, credited nor informed of this. The author was later paid an undisclosed sum after her publisher contacted the producers of the movie.

Echoes

Her second novel to be published, Echoes sees Binchy explore various themes of Irish small-town life between 1952 and 1962 and was described by the Sunday Telegraph as “a powerful story of love and jealousy”. It remains among her most popular books and in 1988 a four-part television miniseries was adapted from the novel for Channel 4. It is available to watch online on Channel 4’s streaming service, All 4.

  • Maeve Binchy: The Magic of the Ordinary is on RTÉ One at 9.35pm on Monday, May 9

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