Deirdre Purcell

Life
1945- ; b. Dublin; dg. of a civil servant; and ed. inner-city primary school and Gortnor Abbey, a convent boarding-school on Lough Conn as a scholarship pupil; civil servant and Aer Lingus worker; joined Aer Lingus Musical and Dramatic Society and was playing the part of Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest when she was recruited by the Abbey at an audition which she attended to accompany a friend, 1965; appeared as Christine opposite Donal McCann in Drama at Inish; Miss Frost in The Ginger Man; Pegeen in The Playboy; became permanent member of Abbey; actress-in-residence Loyola, Chicago, 1968; married an American (later divorced) and returned with him to Ireland 1973; a son Adrian, b. 1973;
appt. radio continuity announcer, RTÉ; newsreader, 1977; TV journalist, 1979; anchor Nine O’Clock News to 1983; joined NUJ; Irish Press journalist, 1983; head-hunted and appt. chief feature writer at Sunday Tribune, 7[?9] yrs; commenced writing fiction at a publisher's suggestion; winner of Benson and Hedges, and Cross awards; Taoiseach’s nominee to Board of Abbey; council of Credit Institutions ombudsman; nonfiction and two novels; A Place of Stones (1991), novel about Molly Ní Bhriain, actress from Inisheer, a best-seller topping 75,000; issued The Childhood Country (1992); Falling For a Dancer (1994), in which a pregnant girl from Cork marries a Beara widower to avoid humiliation, filmed in West Cork, 1997 and screened in 1998;
Purcell appeared at Bangor Heritage Centre Celebration of Irish Writers, 1994; Francey (1994) and Sky (1995), follow the story of Elizabeth in Falling; also Love, Like, Hate, Adore (1997), a sister’s defence of her brother charged with rape; shortlisted for Orange Prize; issued Entertaining Ambrose (2000) and Marble Gardens (2002), in which old friends reach crisis over alternative medicine for an ailing daughter while alternate lovers become embroiled; issued Last Summer in Arcadia (2003), a novel of former friends, Tess, Maddy and Rita, now married, on holiday in France; Children of Eve (2004), the story of Arabella, Rowan and Willow, children abandoned in the Botanic Gardens by their mother, the title-character; Tell Me Your Secret (2006); issued Pearl (2011), set in 1920s Ireland and featuring Pearl Somers who lives in the gatelodge of Kilnashone Castle where her father is chauffeur to Lord and Lady Areto; issued The Winter Gathering (2013) in which four of Maggie’s closest friends spend Christmas with her again, ten years after her husband's departure - who unexpectedly returns. ATT OCIL

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Works
  • The Dark Hunger (Dublin: Magill 1984); A Place of Stones (Dublin: Townhouse 1991), and Do. [rep. edn.] (2003), 480pp.;
  • That Childhood Country (Dublin: Townhouse 1992), 549pp.;
  • On Lough Derg (Dublin: Veritas 1989), ill. by Liam Blake; Falling for a Dancer (Townhouse/Macmillan 1993), 491pp., and Do. [rep. edns.] (Pan 1998; TownHouse 2003), 496pp.;
  • Francey (London: Macmillan 1994), 465pp.;
  • Full Circle (Dublin: Townhouse 1995);
  • Sky (Dublin: Townhouse 1995; pb. 1996), 480pp.; Do. (London: Macmillan 1996), 416pp.;
  • Love, Like, Hate, Adore (Dublin: Townhouse 1997), 483pp.;
  • Billy and Jesus are Off to Barcelona [Open Door Ser.] (Dublin: New Island Books 1999), 77pp.;
  • Entertaining Ambrose (Dublin: Townhouse 2000), 400pp.;
  • Marble Gardens (Dublin: New Island Press 2002), 375pp.; Has Anyone Here Seen Larry? (Dublin: New Island Press 2002), 80pp.;
  • Last Summer in Arcadia (Dublin: New Island Press 2003), 508pp.;
  • Children of Eve (London: Hodder Headline 2004), viii, 372pp.;
  • Tell Me Your Secret (London: Hodder Headline 2006) [q.pp.];
  • Marble Gardens (London: Hodder Headline 2010), q.pp.;
  • Pearl (London: Hodder Headline 2011), 448pp.;
  • The Winter Gathering (London: Hodder Headline 2013), 448pp.
Note: Townhouse is a Macmillan imprint.]
Translations
  • J. Chicheportiche [trans.], L’Éte de nos seize ans (Paris: Presses de la Cité 1994);
  • Passion irlandaise (Paris: Presses de la Cité 1994);
  • Tá Jesus agus Billy ag imeacht go Barcelona, trans. by Lorraine Ní Dhonnchú; comhairleoir teanga: Pól Ó Cainín. 2007
Autobiography
  • Deirdre Purcell, Diamonds and Holes in My Shoes (London: Hodder Headline Ireland 2006), 377pp.
Miscellaneous
  • Gay Byrne, with Deirdre Purcell, The Time of My Life: An Autobiography (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1989), 224pp.; intro. Contemplating Ireland, photographs by James Gleason (Dublin: Atlantic Ireland, 2000), 96pp.

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Criticism
Shirley Kelly, interview, ‘A Change of Direction’, in Books Ireland (Sept. 1997, pp.201-03; Patricia Deevy, ‘The Dramas of Deirdre Purcell’, interview with Deirdre Purcell, in Sunday Independent (7 April 2002), p.4 [infra]; Sue Leonard, review of Children of Eve, in Books Ireland (March 2005), p.50. See other commentaries, infra. See various further excerpts under Commentary, infra.

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Commentary
Maxine Jones, review of Sky in Tribune, Books, 3 Dec 1995; p.21, calling it a thriller in which American journalist Sky has affair with Irish policeman Lynksey that coming to a shattering stop in the Natural History Museum.

Teresa Doran, review of Sky, in Books Ireland (Nov. 1996), p.321f., naming Rainbow Sky MacPherson, a 34 year-old journalist in Butte Montana, as the female lead.

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Lucile Redmond, review of Love Like Hate Adore (1997), a novel concerning Angela Devine, delicatessen worker and part-time kissogram, whose br. James’s girlfriend Rosemary Maden, a printer’s dg., accuses him of date-rape; narrator’s mother dg. of well-off Protestant mother who died in drug-related violence in Dublin; good girl who picks up the pieces; all other characters weak.

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Sue Leonard, review of Marble Gardens, in Books Ireland (March 2002): Riba is on a mission to save her teenage daughter Zelda, who is suffering from cancer; both narrowly escape a plan-crash; her friend Sophie falls for Brian, while Sophie’s husband falls for Yvonne. ‘A satisfying beach read with more substance than most’ (BI, March 2002, p.58).

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Yvonne Nolan, review of Marble Gardens, in The Irish Times [Weekend] (30 March, 2002), praising the ‘emphatic drawing of teenage characters’ and ‘canny understanding of the attractions of New Age-ism’ but deplores seeing ‘the fundamentally serious and intelligent Purcell, one of the best profile writiers Irish journalism ever had, struggling within the cliché-ridden confines of her chosen genre.’

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Patricia Deevy, ‘The Dramas of Deirdre Purcell’, interview with Deirdre Purcell, in Sunday Independent (7 April 2002), Living: Purcell joined Ar Lingus after school; continued passion for drama and performance in airline’s miscual and dramatic soc.; plaued opp. Donal McCann at Abbey; offered place on Loyola Univ. (Chicago) international theatre programme; m. Robert Weckler, American actor [at 24], and settled in Ireland, 1972; separated after 4 years; mother of Adrian and Simon; ‘I’ve great sympathy with publishers trying to market me. I’m very hard to market because I do keep changing. / Also, I don’t have a kind of sexy story to sell. I’m not yong and nubile, I’m not a overnight sensation. I'm not out at parties. I’m not a jet-setter, I’m not a lady who lunches. There is nothig. so I have great sympathy for publishers. I’m not going ot plagiarise my family, I’, not going to use them. I’m not going to manufacture things - I’m just a jobbing writer, really.’ (p.4.)

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Denise Deegan, ‘Deirdre's Development', review of Diamonds and Holes in My Shoes, in The Irish Times (16 Dec. 2006), Weekend: ‘[...] Convent school innocence was interrupted when a nun imparted the facts of life to a 17-year-old Purcell while she "patted and tidied" Crunchies and Curly Wurlys in the tuck shop. Though to get through it, the nun pretended that the teenager was a woman of the world already privy to the details. Purcell played along but the shock was enormous. / In that Ireland, people saved for what they wanted. It took Purcell 16 weeks to acquire her first pair of stilettos, which she wore until the soles were holed. But that Ireland was also a place of begrudgery and small- mindedness and this was instrumental in the return of her first husband to the United States without her and their two sons. "And of course he was out of love with me," is her poignant addition. [...] This is a gentle documentation of a full life, at times poignant, at times amusing, never self-congratulatory.' [End.]

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Notes
Tell Me Your Secret (2006): Violet Shine, 16, imprisoned in attic of family house on N. Co. Dublin coast having fallen in love with young Coley Quinn in the 1940s and incurred her parents' wrath; Claudine Armstrong, drawn to the house sixty years later, unwittingly becomes a catalyst in the lives of the star-crossed lovers; sweep-love story, ends as tear-jerker. (See Claire Looby, Irish Times notice, “Weekend” [sect.] , 25 Feb. 2006; see also facetious notice in Books Ireland, Sept. 2006, p.203: ‘Moral: cut your daughter’s hair before locking her up [...]’.)

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Kith & Kin: formerly married to 19-year old American actor, who returned to the States out of disaffection with Ireland; lives in Dublin with her two sons Adrian and Simon and her second husband Kevin Healy.

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