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Irish writer Maeve Binchy dies at 72

Maeve Binchy, one of Ireland's best-known and best-loved writers, whose novels "Circle of Friends" and "Tara Road" were made into films, has died at age 72.

Her death Monday in a Dublin hospital, after a short illness, was first reported by broadcast journalist Vincent Browne before his nightly current-affairs program on Ireland's TV3.

Her husband, children's book author Gordon Snell, was by her side.

Binchy's 16 novels, four short-story collections and other books have sold more than 40 million copies in 37 languages, said Ireland's public-television network, RTÉ. In 2000, she was ranked third in a UK World Book Day poll of favorite authors. A decade later, she received a lifetime achievement award from the Irish Book Awards.

Maeve Binchy was born in Dalkey, County Dublin, on May 28, 1940, the eldest of four children.

She attended the Holy Child Convent in Killiney before earning a bachelor of arts degree in 1960 from Dublin's University College.

She then taught at various schools in that city through 1968, when she became a reporter, columnist and eventually the women's editor for the newspaper The Irish Times. She moved to London, continuing to work for the paper.

During her career as a journalist, she published her first two short-story collections, in 1978 and 1980, which offered wry observations of London and Dublin citizens. Two years later came her first novel, "Light a Penny Candle," about two young female friends in the decades following World War II.

Rejected by five publishers before meeting success with a sixth, it became a bestseller and set the template for her warm and gripping observations of life and family relationships in small-town Ireland.

Her second novel, "Echoes" (1985), about a young woman escaping a brutish small town, was adapted for a 1988 British television miniseries. A third best-seller, "Firefly Summer" (1987), focused on an Irish-American gone to live in the Old Country.

Her oeuvre eventually extended to include a play, a novella and two nonfiction books.

"Circle of Friends" (1990) about a group of college students in 1950s Ireland, was made into a 1995 film starring Chris O'Donnell, Minnie Driver, Saffron Burrows, Alan Cumming and Colin Firth."Tara Road" (1998), chosen as an Oprah's Book Club selection in September 1999, was adapted as a 2005 movie starring Andie MacDowell and Olivia Williams as an American and an Irish woman who trade houses in search of new lives and fulfillment. The 2007 film "How About You," starring Hayley Atwell, Vanessa Redgrave, Brenda Fricker and Imelda Staunton, was based on a Binchey short story.

Besides her husband, she is survived by her brother, William Binchy, and a sister, Joan. Another sister, Renee, predeceased her.

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