Molly Keane A Life by Sally Phipps
In 1996, at the age of ninety, just before she died, the Anglo-Irish writer Molly Keane, best remembered for her Booker-shortlisted novel "Good Behaviour", a brilliantly sharp novel about a mother-daughter relationship, suggested her eldest daughter might write about her: 'Make it as much like a novel as possible.' Born in 1940, Sally was the last of a generation who understood the world her mother had grown up in: the big houses, the down-at-heel grand people ('poor food, bad wine, no heat') whose lifeblood was hunting and shooting, who believed that 'it was an absolute duty to be amusing'.
As a young girl, Molly began to write in secret. She wrote eleven novels under the name M. J. Farrell, now thought of as the Irish Nancy Mitford. Plays, hits of London's West End in the late thirties and forties, cam next - some directed by John Gielgud, starring Margaret Rutherford and Sybil Thorndyke. Then tragedy: the death of her beloved husband, Bobbie, at the age of thirty-six. That and the rise of the kitchen sink dramas of the 1950's made her cease all writing. decades later, the actress Peggy Ashcroft asked to see a manuscript that had lain in Molly's drawer for a few years; the astonishment and pleasure of her friend's reading pf "Good Behaviour" led to a revived career. Two more novels, television adaptations and prize ceremonies swiftly followed.
Here, for the first time, is the story of this fascinating, complicated women and of the Anglo-Irish work of the first half of the twentieth century. Her daughter Sally has inherited her mother's talent; she beautifully portrays a writer and a mother of 'stiletto sharpness and infinite kindness'.