Molly Keane The Times Literary Supplement - Essay

The Times Literary Supplement

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Miss M. J. Farrell has already written two or three novels with an Irish setting which are lively and amusing in their way, but nothing nearly so good as Mad Puppetstown…. It, too, is light and amusing, but it has its serious side also and the observation displayed in it is acute. Above all, the three chief characters, Easter Chevington and her twin cousins Basil and Evelyn Curtis, are delightful creations. The author's heart is evidently in Ireland, and she has weighed down the scales in Ireland's favour when contrasting life in an Irish and in an English country house. One cannot say, however, that she has exaggerated the charm of the former….

Puppetstown is the Irish mansion of fiction, but none the less real for that. The scene opens some seven years before the War, when Easter is eight and her cousins a year older. Miss Farrell certainly understands Irish children, and has made these three as amusing as they are true to type. Then comes the War…. A little later there is a flight from Puppetstown. The soldier who has come to pay his court to Mrs. Curtis is murdered on his way home; she dashes off to England with the children; and the house is left to the care of the old gardening Great-Aunt Dicksie.

Then we are transported to Oxford, whence the boys have gone on from Eton and where Easter, now of age, is visiting them. The rest of the book is taken up with the struggle of the three against their new surroundings. Handsome, princely Evelyn succumbs, but Basil and Easter, suddenly and without warning, dash across to Ireland to find Puppetstown in a state of filth and Aunt Dicksie living alone in the house but for Patsy the pantry-boy, her sole domestic staff. We leave them there putting things in order, probably going to marry when Aunt Dicksie dies. Basil, Easter and Puppetstown itself are all so charming that we should like to hear more of them.

A review of "Mad Puppetstown," in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 1545, September 10, 1931, p. 680.