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Molly Keane: A Life

Sally Phipps

4 Reviews

Rated 0

Biography: literary, Prose: non-fiction

A wonderfully honest and deeply accomplished tribute to a complicated, talented mother and writer - 'An Irish writer whose only equal is Elizabeth Bowen' (Bookseller) - by her daughter.

Molly Keane (1904 - 96) was an Irish novelist and playwright (born in County Kildare) most famous for Good Behaviour which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Hailed as the Irish Nancy Mitford in her day; as well as writing books she was the leading playwright of the '30s, her work directed by John Gielgud. Between 1928 and 1956, she wrote eleven novels, and some of her earlier plays, under the pseudonym M.J. Farrell. In 1981, aged seventy, she published Good Behaviour under her own name. The manuscript, which had languished in a drawer for many years, was lent to a visitor, the actress Peggy Ashcroft, who encouraged Keane to publish it.

Molly Keane's novels reflect the world she inhabited; she was from a 'rather serious hunting and fishing, church-going family'. She was educated, as was the custom in Anglo-Irish households, by a series of governesses and then at boarding school. Distant and awkward relationships between children and their parents would prove to be a recurring theme for Keane. Maggie O'Farrell wrote that 'she writes better than anyone else about the mother-daughter relationship, in all its thorny, fraught, inescapable complexity.'

Here, for the first time, is her biography and, written by one of her two daughters, it provides an honest portrait of a fascinating, complicated woman who was a brilliant writer and a portrait of the Anglo-Irish world of the first half of the twentieth century.

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Praise for Molly Keane: A Life

  • A vivid and sensitive portrait of Anglo-Irish society . . . finely attuned to the complexities of her mother's character, and captures the mix of "courage, glamour and fantasy" that sustained her class. This biography lays down new critical avenues for reappraising Molly Keane's considerable oeuvre - Irish Times

  • Sally Phipps has written an intimate, affectionate life . . . a fascinating book that really needed to be written, and it fills a big gap. Not enough is known about the Anglo-Irish in the twentieth century. Let's hope it leads to a Molly Keane revival - Spectator

  • Sally Phipps almost pulls off the impossible: she light-footedly brings Molly Keane back to life, and makes one grateful for the illusion of having met her - Observer

  • An arrestingly graceful, truthful and compassionate portrait - Times Literary Supplement

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