She sold over 40 million books, saying she was "an escapist kind of writer."
LONDON - Bestselling author Maeve Binchy, one of Ireland's most popular writers, died in Dublin after a brief illness, Irish media and national leaders said. She was 72 years old.
She was best known for her depictions of human relationships and their crises in such books as "Circle of Friends" and "Tara Road," based mainly in the small towns of Ireland but also in London.
"We have lost a national treasure," said Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny.
The Irish Times, her former employer, said Binchy's family told the paper that the acclaimed author had died in a Dublin hospital on Monday with her husband, Gordon Snell, by her side.
"She was an outstanding novelist, short-story writer and columnist, who engaged millions of people all around the world with her fluent and accessible style," said Ireland's president, Michael D. Higgins.
Binchy wrote 16 novels, four collections of short stories, a play and a novella, selling more than 40 million books worldwide. Her work landed her on the New York Times' bestseller list and in Oprah's Book Club.
In recent years she continued to write despite being slowed down by arthritis and a heart ailment.
"I do realize that I am a popular writer who people buy to take on vacation. I'm an escapist kind of writer," Binchy said in an interview with the BookReporter website. "I was just lucky I lived in this time of mass-market paperbacks."
Describing her childhood in Dalkey in County Dublin, Binchy wrote on her official website that she was "full of enthusiasms, mad fantasies, desperate urges to be famous and anxious to be a saint."
After graduating from University College Dublin, Binchy worked as a teacher before becoming a journalist, columnist and editor at the Irish Times, one of the country's leading newspapers.
She later moved to England, where she became the newspaper's London editor in the early 1970s.
Her first novel, "Light a Penny Candle," was published in 1982 -- after being rejected by five publishers -- and became a bestseller.
"Circle of Friends" and "Tara Road," and her short story "How About You" were turned into films. Two other novels, "Echoes" and "The Lilac Bus," were filmed for television.
She had announced in her column in 2000 that "Scarlet Feather" would be her last novel, prompting more than 800 people to write in protest to the Irish Times.
She then published four more novels, with her last, "A Week in Winter," to be published later this year.