Julie Parsons

Life
1951- ; New Zealand, where her parents emigrated in 1947; her father Denny d. at sea in mysterious circumstances travelling as doctor to the Tokelau Islands; family return to Dublin in 1963; studied sociology of Music at UCD; briefly worked as artist’s model in New Orleans; took MA in sociology of music, UCD; joined RTÉ as radio director, 1985, and worked as researcher on ‘Gay Byrne Show’ [radio then tv]; m. John Caden, with one dg.; issued first novel, Mary, Mary (1998), psychological thriller, followed by The Courtship Gift (1999) and Eager to Please (2000), issued The Guilty Heart (Macmillan 2003), a story of child abduction and abuse; issued The Hourglass (London: Macmillan 2005), 356pp., a search for an estranged daughter that turns into a quest for revenge; issued I Saw You (2007), concerning the obsession of a mother with her daughter’s drowning - whether accident, suicide or murder.

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Works
Mary, Mary (1998), 376pp.; The Courtship Gift (1999) ; Eager to Please (2000) [extract in The Irish Times, Weekend (18 Nov. 2000)]; The Guilty Heart (London: Macmillan 2003); The Hourglass (London: Macmillan 2005), 356pp.; I Saw You (London: Macmillan 2007), 354pp.

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Commentary
Q. auth. [interview], Sunday Independent ( 19 Nov. 2000): Julia Parsons, Eager to Please, publ. 14 Nov. 2000; visits Mountjoy Women’s Prison to reasearch her novel: ‘It’s the noise that hits you first. The sound of women’s voices reflecting back from the hard surfaces … They tell you immediately that you have lost that most prevcious of all your adult human possessions, you ability tocome and go, when as as you please./Because now you are a prisoner.

Alannah Hopkin, ‘Treasured Island’ [interview-article], on mystery-writer Julie Parson [and] her love affair with Sherkin, in Irish Times, Magazine (10 May 2003), pp.16-17: ‘We don’t have a television here either. I’m a terrible tellevision addict at home. But part of being here is being outside, especially in the summer. Because it’s so beatiful you keep on wanting to open the door, and step outside and look. Even at night0time, the stars are so incvredible, sometimes we sit out and watch shooting stars. Maybe as time passes, we will spend more time down here. It really is another world.’ (End.)

Shirley Kelly, interview with Julie Parsons, in Books Ireland (Summer 2003): Parsons has just issued The Guilty Heart (Macmillan), the story of an eight-year-old boy who disappears while his mother is at work, his father is in bed with a neighbour and his minder is on an ecstasy trip with her boyfriend, involving issues of paedophilia; quotes: “I didn’t set out to write about paedophilia […] It wasn’t really in the headlines when I started out, but it did suggest itself as he most likely explanation for a child’s disappearance. It was the disappearance itself that interested me initially, and what that might lead to”; her parents emigrated to New Zealand in 1947; father died at sea in a mysterious circumstances with 24 others when he travelled as a doctor to the Tokelau Islands to visit man with a gangrenous hand; boat found abandoned with its life-rafts missing but no survivors; officially presumed dead after seven years; family return to Dublin in 1963; “unbelievably traumatic”; a younger brother contracted glandular fever and spent a year hospital; an older brother was diagnosed with a congenital back problem requiring bone graft from his hip; avid reader in childhood; studied sociology at UCD; “It didn’t take me long to figure out that the social workers were all middle class and their clients were all working class and I wasn’t comfortable with that at all”; worked as artist’s model in New Orleans; took MA in sociology of music, UCD; joined RTÉ as radio producer in 1985; worked on Gay Byrne morning radio show; wrote account of her family tragedy for Sunday Miscellany in 1993; joined writers’ group with Alison Dye, Joan O’Neill and Sheila Barrett; gives account of first novel and publication: “Then it occurred to me that writing my family history was a very obvious thing to do and anyway, I’m not keen on the ‘shop your family’ school of writing. I had always enjoyed reading thrillers, I was a big fan of Ruth Rendell and I thought I’d like to be able to write a book like that. The idea for my first novel, Mary, Mary, came to me on the DART one day as I was going to work in RTÉ. That day we were following a group of workers around the country pushing a giant Superquinn sausage, and I thought “There must be more to life than this”. So I sat down, wrote a synopsis and showed it to my husband and a friend. They thought it was very good, so I wrote the first three chapters and sent them off with the synopsis to Treasa Coady at Townhouse. I’d met Treasa through my radio and TV work and I thought Townhouse were doing a good job with Deirdre Purcell. Treasa got my submission on a Friday and the following Monday she rang me and offered me a contract.” Rights sold on to Macmillan with contract for two further books; four best-sellers in 14 countries.

Bernice Harrison, ‘Bad Deeds in Baltimore’, review of The Hourglass, in The Irish Times (31 Dec. 2005), Weekend: ‘[…] The answer to one of the supposed mysteries at the centre of the story - who is the father of a child - is so obvious from the minute it is mentioned that you have to suspect that Parsons intends the reader to dig deep into the psychology of the characters instead of wasting too much time putting two and two together. Instead the story unfolds at its own pace and there’s an inexorable sense, reflected perhaps in The Hourglass of the title, that the badness must flow through right to the end, at which point it will simply stop. / Adam is the disturbing central character, and from the moment he appears, he makes the malevolent reason for his presence quite clear. Recently released from prison, the suave, handsome Englishman is in west Cork on a revenge mission for his cellmate and lover. The man, Colm Ó Laoire, believes that all his misfortunes, including his current predicament as a lifer in a British jail, stem from his treatment at the hands of Lydia Beauchamp, owner of Trawbawn, more than 20 years before. Adam is his psychopathic avenger. By the end of the novel the young Englishman has left a trail of dead bodies and raped women. The violence in The Hourglass, particularly the sexual violence, is explicit and disturbing. […] In Parsons’s previous novels, particularly Mary Mary and Eager to Please, the plots were more subtly layered. Here, what linger are the violent actions of the psychopathic Adam and the subtle atmosphere of threat the writer so deftly creates.’ [End]

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