Molly Keane Critical Essays


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Molly Keane 1904–

(Born Mary Nesta Skrine; has also written under pseudonym of M. J. Farrell) Irish novelist and dramatist.

Keane's strongly atmospheric novels recreate the Anglo-Irish world of family estates and fox-hunts in which she grew up. Her attitude toward this world has been described as one of "affectionate malice." She does not hesitate to reveal the foibles of the squabbling families she portrays in a style which sometimes verges on black comedy, but she does so with compassion, usually succeeding in eliciting sympathy even for her unattractive characters. Keane's love of Ireland is revealed in her enthusiastic descriptions of the Irish countryside, especially in the novel Mad Puppetstown (1932), in which two cousins choose to leave a comfortable life in England to return to their decaying childhood home in Ireland. Critics note that although Keane rarely varies her setting from the Irish country estate and repeatedly uses the popular theme of the decline of the landed gentry, she makes her novels appear fresh and original.

Keane's writing career, which began in the late 1920s, was interrupted by a long hiatus following the death of her husband. Her early works, which include the plays Spring Meeting (1938) and Treasure Hunt (1950) as well as several novels, were published under a pseudonym. Keane's return to writing in the 1980s with Good Behaviour (1981) and Time after Time (1983) marked her first publications under her own name.

(See also Contemporary Authors, Vol. 108.)