Molly Keane The New York Times Book Review - Essay

The New York Times Book Review

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["Mad Puppetstown"] follows a more or less familiar pattern, but it is written with so much beauty and freshness that it seems, while one is reading it, to be alone of its kind. It is primarily a novel of locale, and nothing in it is so important as the feeling of a particular place that it conveys—the atmosphere, the color and activity, the sights and sounds of an Irish home. The considerations of plot and character are secondary—though the plot, what there is of it, is quite adequate, and the characters are ably and unmistakably drawn. Puppetstown, the seat of the Chevingtons, dominates the book.

In those mellow and prosperous years before the war and before the turbulent outbreak of the Irish rebellion, Puppetstown had been the centre of life for the Chevingtons…. Above all, Puppetstown was Irish to the core—there was something that set it apart from a similar country place in England, a hint of savagery or romantic wildness that responded perfectly to the romantic wildness in the blood of the Irish Chevingtons.

M. J. Farrell succeeds admirably in evoking this characteristic atmosphere as it grew into the consciousness of three children—Easter Chevington and her two cousins, Basil and Evelyn….

[After being removed to England] … Basil and Easter return to Puppetstown—but to a Puppetstown that is changed, to a house fallen into decay from neglect and disuse under the jealous and miserly care of Aunt Dicksie. There is a double tragedy in the conflict of their homecoming—tragedy on the part of the young people who find the place spiritually closed against them and on the part of Aunt Dicksie, who sees it about to be taken from her….

To reveal the fashion of the tragedy's resolving would do as much injustice to the beauty of Miss Farrell's writing, as to the tact and appropriateness of her conception. Suffice it to say that "Mad Puppetstown" is a novel superb in its kind, and that there will be few who can read it unsympathetically.

"'Mad Puppetstown' and Other New Works of Fiction: 'Mad Puppetstown'," in The New York Times Book Review, June 19, 1932, p. 7.