Lifetime achievement awards for Joanna Trollope and Maeve Binchy

Romantic Novelists’ Association presents Maeve Binchy and Joanna Trollope with lifetime achievement awards for their contribution to the genre

Alison Flood

The last time Maeve Binchy was presented with a lifetime achievement award, she announced a year later that her next book, Scarlet Feather, would be her last. Eleven years — and four novels — later, the bestselling Irish writer has landed her second, and her fans will be hoping the prize doesn’t prompt her into a similar declaration.

Binchy, whose first novel, Light a Penny Candle (the story of an English evacuee’s decades-long friendship with an Irish girl) was published in 1982, was yesterday given a lifetime achievement award from the Romantic Novelists’ Association for her contribution to the genre, alongside English novelist Joanna Trollope. Romance author and RNA chair Katie Fforde called the pair “two of our finest authors”, whose writing “gives pleasure to so many people”. “Maeve Binchy and Joanna Trollope are household names, national treasures and some of the best storytellers of the last 50 years,” said Fforde. “It was our pleasure and privilege to honour them with lifetime achievement awards.”

Binchy, given her prize in Ireland, said she was “delighted” to win it. “I’ve always admired the Association because it’s managed to make us believe that stories are important and that we can get lost in the lives of other people,” said the author, who has sold an estimated 45m copies of her books worldwide, and over 5.5m in the UK, according to Nielsen BookScan. For those concerned that the win might prompt another pronouncement — in 2000, after winning a lifetime achievement prize at the British Book Awards in 1999, Binchy said that she wouldn’t be carrying on with writing because she had “enough money to live off” — the author’s next book, Minding Frankie, is out this autumn.

Trollope, who 30 years ago won the Romantic Novel of the Year award for her book Parson Harding’s Daughter, pronounced herself “amazed and thrilled to be given [the lifetime achievement prize], and so touched, too”. “Of course it means a lot in itself, but it means even more to me because I have such admiration and respect for the RNA, which must be one of the most professional and supportive of literary associations around, as all its aspiring writer members know, and of course, I was one of them, once … So my pleasure and gratitude are very heartfelt,” she said.

Yesterday’s awards ceremony also saw Lucy Dillon win the Romantic Novel of the Year award for Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts, about the romantic consequences which ensue when stray dogs are matched with new owners. Fforde said the novel’s “character development and storylines kept us hooked to the very last page” and “unanimously won over” judges to take the prize, ahead of shortlisted authors including prospective Tory MP Louise Bagshawe, Santa Montefiore and Rachel Hore.

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