Maeve Kelly

Life
1930- ; b. Clare, brought up Dundalk, Co. Louth; settled in Limerick; studied post-grad. nursing in London and worked on Oxford and Ireland; winner of Hennessy Literary Award in 1972; joined Women’s Movement in 1974; administered Limerick refuge for battered wives (ADAPT shelter); issued A Life of Her Own (1976), stories; Necessary Treasons (1985), about a woman escaping provincial family-life and joining the feminist movement]; Resolutions (1986), poems; Florrie’s Girls (1989), a novel dealing with Irishwoman Cos’s initiation into the stresses and frustrations of student-nursing in post-war London; Orange Horses (1990), stories capturing hope, passions, and despairs of women struggling with constraints of everyday life; also Orange Horses and Other Stories (1990); Florrie’s Girls (London: Michael Joseph 1991); RTE broadcaster; ATT

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Works
Stories
, A Life of Her Own (Dublin: Poolbeg 1976); Orange Horses (1990; Belfast: Blackstaff 1991). Novels, Necessary Treasons (Michael Joseph 1985; Methuen 1986; Belfast: Blackstaff 1991); Florrie’s Girls (1989; Belfast: Blackstaff 1991). Poetry, Resolution (Belfast: Blackstaff 1986).

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Commentary
Maurice Harmon, ‘First Impressions: 1968-78’, in Terence Brown & Patrick Rafroidi, eds., The Irish Short Story, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1979): ‘Maeve Kelly’s “The Last Campaign” is a story about the disappointments and setbacks of life on the farm. It is dense with the detail of daily life, the chores, the sparse conversations. Martha and Joe suffer yet another calamity, when their herd is condemned, but what the story really conveys is their tough and gencrous humanity. They work hard, they suffer successive losses, their marriage is barren, but they are fertile in love, in courage, in humour, in the ability to pull together and fight back against misfortune. The contrast with Liam O’Flaherty’s “Spring Sowing”, that delicate, romantic account of the young couple making their first potato sowing is striking, but some of the same human lessons are there, although made without O’Flaherty’s mystique of the land. In the process Maeve Kelly reveals the [67] characters of the two people, the man more taciturn, the woman with a more active mind. The story’s resonance is achieved through these portraits, for what they tell us about two PeoPleg not by what they evoke of old faiths. / Maeve Kelly’s stories are in the tradition of Mary Lavin’s studies of rural and middle-class life. While she lacks the older woman’s depth of vision, she resembles her in the warm humanity that she brings to her stories. In “Day at the Sea”, two brothers return to the Clare coast from which their old mother had come in the remote past. The boys have married the land, they give their energies to it in unrelenting and orderly toil. At her request “they go west to a different landscape, to a place of primeval memories”, where the younger brother wallows for a day in his soul’s ecstasy. / Indeed, one of the pleasuresof reading hte new writers is this quality of warm humanity that many of them have. [...].’ (pp.67-68.)

John Bradbury, review of Orange Horses (1990), in Causeway (Summer 1994), p.81: the title story deals with brutal world of travelling people; Elsie’s family considers it odd that she should assert herself against her husband, who beats her up; when she runs away, the consequences are tragic; “Love” is tragi-comedy; “Parasites” concerns the attempt of a dead-beat poet to sponge off a West of Ireland girl in London.

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References
Katie Donovan, A. N. Jeffares & Brendan Kennelly, eds., Ireland’s Women (Dublin: G&M 1994), contains an extract.

Blackstaff Press (Cat. 1991): Necessary Treasons (Michael Joseph 1985; Methuen 1986; Belfast: Blackstaff 1991) [novel on woman’s escape from provincial family life and baptism of fire in feminist movement]; Resolution (Belfast: Blackstaff 1986); Florrie’s Girls (1989; Belfast: Blackstaff 1991) [young Irishwoman’s initiation into stresses and frustrations of 18 yr.-old Cos, student nursing in postwar London]; Orange Horses (1990; Belfast: Blackstaff 1991), stories [capturing hope, passions, and despairs of women struggling with constraints of everyday life].

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