We have updated our Privacy Policy Please take a moment to review it. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the terms of our updated Privacy Policy.

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9780349007540

Price: £10.99

ON SALE: 25th January 2018

Genre: Biography & True Stories / Biography: General / Biography: Literary

Disclosure: If you buy products using the retailer buttons above, we may earn a commission from the retailers you visit.

Molly Keane (1904 – 96) was an Irish novelist and playwright (born in County Kildare) most famous for Good Behaviour which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Hailed as the Irish Nancy Mitford in her day; as well as writing books she was the leading playwright of the ’30s, her work directed by John Gielgud. Between 1928 and 1956, she wrote eleven novels, and some of her earlier plays, under the pseudonym M.J. Farrell. In 1981, aged seventy, she published Good Behaviour under her own name. The manuscript, which had languished in a drawer for many years, was lent to a visitor, the actress Peggy Ashcroft, who encouraged Keane to publish it.

Molly Keane’s novels reflect the world she inhabited; she was from a ‘rather serious hunting and fishing, church-going family’. She was educated, as was the custom in Anglo-Irish households, by a series of governesses and then at boarding school. Distant and awkward relationships between children and their parents would prove to be a recurring theme for Keane. Maggie O’Farrell wrote that ‘she writes better than anyone else about the mother-daughter relationship, in all its thorny, fraught, inescapable complexity.’

Here, for the first time, is her biography and, written by one of her two daughters, it provides an honest portrait of a fascinating, complicated woman who was a brilliant writer and a portrait of the Anglo-Irish world of the first half of the twentieth century.

What's Inside

Read More Read Less


A delight and a phenomenon; the literary biography of a novelist . . . by her writer daughter, who manifests herself quite as observant compassionate original and dauntless as her mother
Candia McWilliam, Herald
Her daughter's incisive portrait of her 'enchanting and troubled personality' delivers real understanding
Country Life
Sally Phipps almost pulls off the impossible: she light-footedly brings Molly Keane back to life, and makes one grateful for the illusion of having met her
Kate Kellaway, Observer
Beautifully written . . . this sparking biography serves her memory and achievement fairly, fondly, and as one suspects, truthfully
Irish Sunday Times
Sally Phipps has written an intimate, affectionate life . . . a fascinating book that really needed to be written, and it fills a big gap. Not enough is known about the Anglo-Irish in the twentieth century. Let's hope it leads to a Molly Keane revival
Molly Keane, Sally Phipps's life of her mother, is as fresh and true and eccentric as any of Keane's novels, and shows just how good biography can be in the hands of a natural writer
Frances Wilson, Spectator
In this exceptional Life of the Anglo-Irish novelist Molly Keane, written by her own daughter, there are few dates, fewer sources and no dull patches at all. Keane told Phipps to make it "as much like a novel as possible", and worried that she wouldn't be "nasty enough". But Phipps, in recounting her rackety mother's huntin' dancin' drinkin' life, the sparkle of her early novels and the darkness of her late, is better than nasty - she is forgiving and acute
Sunday Telegraph
A vivid and sensitive portrait of Anglo-Irish society . . . finely attuned to the complexities of her mother's character, and captures the mix of "courage, glamour and fantasy" that sustained her class. This biography lays down new critical avenues for reappraising Molly Keane's considerable oeuvre
Irish Times
Sally Phipps, the novelist's daughter, and herself a born writer, has given us an astonishing glimpse into her mother's lost world in this beautiful biography . . . what Phipps has achieved in this book is uncanny and thrilling. No daughter has ever written about a mother with such pitiful honesty . . . If you are to read only one biography this year, make it Sally Phipps's Molly Keane: A Life. I assure you, this is memoir as work of art
Irish Examiner
An arrestingly graceful, truthful and compassionate portrait
Times Literary Supplement