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Kate O'Brien Biography

(1897–1974), Distinguished Villa, The Bridge, Without My Cloak, The Land of Spices, Mary Lavelle, That Lady

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: New from Tartary to Frank O'connor

Irish novelist, born in Limerick, educated at University College, Dublin. Originally known as a playwright, with Distinguished Villa (1926) and The Bridge (1927), she found huge popularity with her first and in many respects weakest novel, Without My Cloak (1931). When depicting the conflict between religion (Catholicism) and the sensibility of the artist, her work is at its best. The Land of Spices (1942) is among the best novels of convent life ever written in English and was deemed immoral by the Irish Censorship Board. Like many Irish girls, she spent time in Spain as a governess, an experience which formed the basis of her novel Mary Lavelle (1936). But her interest in Spain and its history is most memorably employed in That Lady (1946), her fictional portrayal of the Castilian princess Ana de Mendoza. Music and Splendour (1958) is of interest for its depiction of love between women. She also wrote travel books, including Farewell Spain (1937), and a monograph on Teresa of Avila (1951). Other notable novels include The Ante Room (1934) and The Last of Summer (1943). Despite early success, she died in poverty, and never received her just due as one of Ireland's finest novelists.

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