Authors: Kate O’Brien

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Irish novelist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Without My Cloak, 1931

Mary Lavelle, 1936

Pray for the Wanderer, 1938

The Last of Summer, 1943

That Lady, 1946 (also known as For One Sweet Grape)

The Flower of May, 1953

As Music and Splendour, 1958


Distinguished Villa, pr. 1926

The Bridge, pr. 1927

The Schoolroom Window, pr. 1937

That Lady, pr. 1949


Farewell, Spain, 1937

English Diaries and Journals, 1943

Teresa of Avila, 1951

My Ireland, 1962 (travel)

Presentation Parlour, 1963 (reminiscence)


Kate O’Brien was born on December 3, 1897, at Limerick, the “Mellick” of her novels. She was educated at a convent boarding school and at University College, Dublin. Going to London as a young woman, she wrote for newspapers, and from journalism she turned to drama. Her first play, Distinguished Villa, was staged successfully in London in 1926; it was followed the next year by The Bridge. After moving to Spain, where she lived until the Falangist Civil War, O’Brien achieved her more substantial reputation as a novelist. Her first novel, Without My Cloak, established her literary reputation; it was awarded the Hawthornden Prize. She continued to write for the theater, however, and adapted to that medium three narratives of her own, including her historical novel, That Lady.{$I[AN]9810000074}{$I[A]O’Brien, Kate[OBrien, Kate]}{$I[geo]WOMEN;O’Brien, Kate[OBrien, Kate]}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;O’Brien, Kate[OBrien, Kate]}{$I[geo]IRELAND;O’Brien, Kate[OBrien, Kate]}{$I[tim]1897;O’Brien, Kate[OBrien, Kate]}

Kate O’Brien

(Library of Congress)

A psychological novelist, O’Brien was expert in her handling of modern techniques. Thematically, The Last of Summer is characteristic: The heroine, an actress reared in France, visits for the first time her father’s childhood home in Ireland, where she is forced to cope with the family of her domineering aunt. The tension between the girl’s warm, equable temperament and the neuroses of the cousin with whom she falls in love causes an inevitable exposure of divided emotional loyalties. O’Brien also frequently was concerned with failures of the artistic spirit to quicken sympathy in the conservative, Catholic Irish middle class.

BibliographyDalsimer, Adele. Kate O’Brien: A Critical Study. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1990. The first comprehensive study of Kate O’Brien’s entire literary output. The emphasis is on her works’ feminist dimension. Includes bibliography.O’Brien, Kate. “The Art of Writing.” University Review 3 (1965): 6-14. Provides valuable insights into the author’s thoughts about writing.Reynolds, Lorna. Kate O’Brien: A Literary Portrait. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble Books, 1987. This study is divided into two parts, the first dealing with the major fiction in chronological order and the second surveying O’Brien’s treatment of various major themes. Also contains a valuable treatment of O’Brien’s family background.Walshe, Eibhear, ed. Ordinary People Dancing: Essays on Kate O’Brien. Cork, Ireland: Cork University Press, 1993. This selection of critical essays examines O’Brien’s heritage and feminism.
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