Beloved Irish writer Maeve Binchy has died at age 72 in Dublin, following a brief illness, the Irish Times reports. Binchy's books, among them short-story collections and the novel-turned-movie Circle of Friends, have sold more than 40 million copies, and addressed the tensions of a modernizing Irish society, the Guardian notes. Her passing prompted praise from fellow writers as well as the highest levels of government. "Today we have lost a national treasure," said Irish PM Enda Kenny. "She is a huge loss wherever stories of love, hope, generosity, and possibility are read and cherished."
Binchy got an unlikely start as a traveling youth detailing her adventures in post cards home. “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," she later said. From there, she became the women's editor and then London editor for the Irish Times, until she published her first novel in 1982. She returned to Dublin when "the fax was invented so we writers could live anywhere we liked, instead of living in London near publishers." Her work "will no doubt stand the test of time," said the country's arts minister, offering "a window into an emerging and ever-changing Ireland." (Read more Maeve Binchy stories.)