the writer (novelist and dramatist),
born 3 Dec 1897, Limerick city.
Family home was
Boru House, Mulgrave St, Limerick.
Her mother died 1903, when she was age 5 yrs.
She spent many years as a boarder at
"I've always been alone",
she said in an interview in later life.
Her father died June 1916.
She was orphaned at age 18.
She was friends with the children of
especially friends with
"in childhood and on through the university I was friends with
the elder children of James" [O'Mara].
Her sister married in
Feb 1918 to James O'Mara's younger brother Stephen O'Mara.
worked as secretary to James O'Mara
when he was in the USA, in Washington, DC,
She lived in England.
mar c.1924, London, to Gustav Renier [or Gustaaf, Dutch journalist].
They quickly separated.
[Muffie de Courcy] said she came home to Limerick in tears
shortly after marriage,
saying he was bringing women back to the house.
advised her to leave him.
She lived in Spain for a time.
Tells story of a family of Catholic merchants (the "Considines")
who rose from poverty in the 18th century to great 19th century prosperity.
Set in "Mellick", a fictional equivalent of Limerick.
The Considine who first comes to "Mellick" in 1789
is a horse thief.
His son founds the family business in 1810 and
rises to great prosperity.
The story spans from 1789 to 1877.
There are contradictory memories of it in the O'Mara family.
Some say the O'Maras saw family members
as characters in it.
Others say the O'Maras saw it just as fiction.
"A chronicle of middle-class Irish life, it is, in effect,
an Irish Forsyte Saga.
Its theme would be constant throughout her novels,
namely the struggle (particularly the struggle of Irish women)
for individual freedom and love against the constricting demands of family,
bourgeois society and Catholic religion."
The Ante-Room (novel, 1934).
A sort of sequel to Without My Cloak.
Set in the fictional Limerick.
The Considine family and their relations appear.
But it is a quite different book to Without My Cloak.
No sweeping family drama.
Rather it is an intimate story about a small group of people and their problems and desires.
Little in it that one can relate to the O'Mara family history,
apart from the setting, which is like Strand House.
Mary Lavelle (novel, 1936).
Based on her experiences in Spain.
Has a character struggling with her lesbian feelings.
Banned in Ireland for "obscenity".
Note that Kate O'Brien was a good friend of
There was a story that for criticising
in this book,
she was banned from Spain for 20 years.
And she was allowed back into Spain in 1957
through the intervention of her in-law
Irish Ambassador to Spain.
Another version of the story
says she was banned from Spain
because of her portrayal of
in That Lady (1946).
Michael Rynne in a 1976 letter in
says he knows nothing about it.
See letter to him,
and transcript of reply.
In fact, Kate O'Brien may never have been banned from Spain.
The Land of Spices (autobiographical novel, 1941).
Based on her long years as a boarder at Laurel Hill.
Set in a fictional equivalent of Limerick.
Banned in Ireland because of a reference to (male) homosexuality.
The "Considine" family of "Mellick" (Limerick)
Without My Cloak (1931)
does strongly resemble the
(with the dates pushed back one generation).
There are also similarities with the
(also with the dates pushed back one generation).
One thing about the book is that it is an affectionate portrayal of the family.
Even the "villains" of various sub-plots are not actually bad people.
It is very positive about human nature.
A sketch of the fictional "Considine" family tree would be as follows.
All the links in the Considine tree
are to people and things in the O'Mara tree
that it resembles.
He was from somewhere W of Mellick.
He arrived in Mellick
in 1789 on a stolen horse.
He mar in Mellick to a widow and shopkeeper.
He died 1790 in a fight.
They had issue:
born 1790 in poverty in old part of Mellick.
He started family business 1810 in the old quarter.
He mar 1813 to a girl from next street.
He built up business from nothing, rose to great wealth.
He became an Alderman of Mellick before 1843.
Supporter of Daniel O'Connell.
His wife died 1845.
business moved to the New Town
He lived as a widower in a fine town house in the New Town.
He died 1861, age 71 yrs.
They had issue:
Eddy Considine, born 1825,
went into family business, Considine's agent in London.
born 1826, youngest son.
He went into family business.
He mar in 1855.
He built in 1860 a fine new house, "River Hill", by the river
in grounds just outside the city (to the N).
He took over family business after his father. Mayor of Mellick 1870.
He had issue:
Kate O'Brien was tolerant of sexual diversity and sexual freedom,
and was an unusually gay-positive writer for the time.
There is a central lesbian romance in
As Music and Splendour,
there is a character struggling with lesbian feelings
in Mary Lavelle
and there is a reference to male homosexuality in
The Land of Spices.
There is an ongoing debate as to whether Kate O'Brien was a lesbian.
The evidence is mixed.
Some who knew her, for example
dispute that she was lesbian.
Whether she was lesbian or bisexual is not at all clear in her work.
For example, she writes brilliantly about passionate heterosexual love in
Without My Cloak.
The strange 1980 edition of
There is a rather strange 1980 edition of
The Ante-Room by Arlen House, The Women's Press.
The text is
surrounded by value judgements
that Kate O'Brien would not agree with.
writes an introduction (quoted on the back cover)
where she expresses a strong dislike for the bourgeois Catholic Ireland
that Kate O'Brien writes about.
"It is Kate O'Brien's achievement to make us love these selfish merchant souls.
They are dross. We know they are dross."
"It is not a place or a time or a people we can be proud of".
No reason for these strange value judgements is given.
It is unclear what the publishers have against upwardly-mobile Catholic Ireland.
But it is clear that Kate O'Brien herself does not express such views.
Hers is at heart an affectionate portrayal of the prosperous middle-class Ireland she came from.
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