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Keane, Molly

society anglo aroon irish

(Anglo-Irish, 1904–96)

Molly Keane's novels are witty studies of Anglo-Irish upper-class society which centre on hunting, fashion, and romance, but also consider the hidden tensions and dangers of her characters’ private lives. Those written up to 1952 are under the pen-name of M. J. Farrell. Begin with Good Behaviour (1981, Booker Prize shortlisted), a black comedy narrated by Aroon, the unattractive and neglected daughter of the St Charles family. Used to concealing emotion under a veneer of socially acceptable conduct, Aroon discusses her mother's tyranny and her father's long illness, inadvertently shedding light on the secret desires and fantasies that pervade the house. Move on to Devoted Ladies (1934), which deals with the attempts of Jessica to stop her lover, Jane, from marrying George Playfair. Though superficially a society novel, it is also an absorbing dramatization of an increasingly sinister power struggle. Keane was also a successful dramatist.

Nancy Mitford, Edna O'Brien, Muriel Spark. See IRELAND  SR

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