Kate Cruise O’Brien (1948-97)

b. Dublin; dg. Conor Cruise O’Brien [q.v.] and Christine [née] Foster; baptised Catholic but educated in Protestant schools, Rathgar Junior School and Park House, Rathfarnham, and TCD; her first story, “Henry Died” appeared in New Irish Writing (David Marcus, ed.) in the Irish Press, winning the Hennessy Award, 1971; m. Joseph Kearney, 1971 with whom a son Alexander, 1974;
issued A Gift Horse and Other Stories (Poolbeg 1978); fourth winner of the Rooney Prize, 1979; columnist in Irish Independent; issued The Homesick Garden (1991), novel; succeeded Jo Donoghue as literary editor of Poolbeg Press; ed., If Only (Dublin: Poolbeg [q.d.]); extended fiction list, drawing on new talent who she strongly encouraged; resisted dictation from Patricia Scanlon, the leading author on the Poolbeg list;
Kate died suddenly, of brain haemorrhage in mid-conversation with London publisher Penny Hoare, March 1997; memoril service conducted at Trinity College Chapel. DIW DIL ATT


A Gift Horse and Other Stories (Poolbeg 1978); If Only (Dublin: Poolbeg [q.d.]). Also “Losing”, in Stories by Contemporary Irish Women, ed. Daniel J. Casey & Linda M. Casey (Syracuse UP 1990), pp.137-43 - in which the protagonist is taken on as History teacher at a small Protestant girls’ school.


Patricia Craig, review of A Gift Horse and Other Stories, in New York Review of Books (8 Oct. 1981) [online]; ‘Kate Cruise O’Brien: Fiction Finder’ [interview], in Books Ireland (Dec. 1997), p.323.

See also John Boland's remarks on O’Brien’s editorial insistence that the novelist Mary McCarthy take "the gloom out of her novel" - under McCarthy [supra].

John Boland takes Poolbeg to task for the plethora of new novels, and ridicules the authors’ blurbs on the covers; recounts how Mary McCarthy, 45, writes the gloom out of her novel at the behest of the editor Kate Cruise O’Brien, and ponders what would have happened to McGahern, Banville, et al., at the same hands; admits to not having read the new titles. (The Irish Times, 15 June 1996, ‘Weekend’, p.8.)

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A. N. Jeffares & Anthony Kamm, eds., An Irish Childhood, An Anthology (Collins 1987) incls. Childhood episode [shortstory] cited.


The Homesick Garden (1990), ‘Oh sense,’ said Grace scornfully, taking a sip of her wine. ‘How much of anyone’s emotional life makes sense? I did want to get pregnant. And Brian talked about having babies all the time. He said he wanted to marry me and he wanted to have children. He said he had a very high IQ ... I didn’t want to marry him. In fact I’ve never wanted to marry anybody ... I don’t think that I’ve ever met a married woman whom I envied or wanted to be like. I’m not good at compromises and I don’t [know] if I could manage the sheer stickiness of marriage, all those gluey guilty feelings wrapping around your skin.’ (p.133.)


Desmond Fennell, ‘Nation of Navel-gazers?’ [letter to the editor], Books Ireland (Nov. 1994), p.290, complains about the unwillingness of Irish publishers to print anything but Irish-subject books, precluding Irish travel writing, and reports that Kate Cruise O’Brien regards it as inadvisable to put a further foreign travel book on their lists [at Poolbeg].

House sale: 26, Charleston Ave., Ranelagh, which Kate Cruise O’Brien acquired in 1976 with her husband Joe, was offered for sale at €1.6 million in 2006. (See The Irish Times “Property”, 31 Aug. 2006.)

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