Harriet is an affection-starved English woman who has raised her three childrennow teenagersalone. When she learned years before that her ex-husband took his new family to Greece on holiday, she pinched pennies even more determinedly in order to give her kids the same advantage. Set on the Greek island where Harriet and brood have vacationed for years, this novel spans a summer that brings plenty of changes and traumas. For the first time, Harriet has invited a lover, Joe, to visit. Roger, a friend of Harriet's oldest daughter, also arrives, and with time becomes a less-than-welcome guest. Joe manages to exert some discipline on the household, which often resembles a free-for-all. But he cuts short his stay and rushes back to his wife, leaving Harriet lonelier than ever. At novel's end, she abandons her family (her long-lost husband has appeared out of the blue) and goes off to a neighboring island, at which she has been gazing through a telescope for years. Boylan (Holy Pictures) is a writer of talent, though readers may lose patience with Harriet's eccentricities and vagaries, which seem forced. One must agree with Joe, who at his departure says: ``Please, Harriet. None of your profound confusions.'' First serial to New Woman. January 15
It's summer and 40-year-old Harriet again brings her three children from London to the not very romantic or luxurious Greek isle of Keptos as she has done, at great financial sacrifice, for the many years since her husband walked out. But this year, the children are unruly teenagers, bored with the rustic life and interested only in drinking and cavorting with the locals. What's more, Harriet has invited her married lover to share their holidaymuch to the surprise of the children, who've never heard of him. The true strength of the novel lies in Boylan's sympathetic portrait of a complex woman who, in her struggle to raise a family alone, overprotects them by hiding her feelings and desires, and nearly loses the children and her own identity in the process. Highly recommended. Marion Hanscom, SUNY at Binghamton Lib.
Employing her knack for research, her love of the Victorian novel, and her connection to kindred literary spirit Charlotte Brontë, award-winning Irish journalist and novelist Clare Boylan (1948- 2006) accomplished the formidable task of actually "finishing" Brontë's novel Emma Brown. It was the crowning achievement of her distinguished literary career.
Clare Boylan began her literary career as a journalist for the now defunct Irish Press. In 1974, while working for Ireland's Evening Press, she won the Journalist of the Year Award. She also worked as editor of Image magazine and lent her considerable style and elegance to that glossy lifestyle publication. Her first book, the novel Holy Pictures, was published in 1983. She went on to complete six additional novels, several collections of short stories, two works of literary nonfiction, and an impressive body of criticism.
The book for which Boylan is best known is Emma Brown, a brilliant, imaginative continuation of a 20-page novel fragment left behind by Charlotte Brontë. Before tackling the project, Boylan spent countless hours in painstaking research, immersing herself in the social conventions of Victorian London (where the novel takes place) and striving to re-create the subtle nuances of Brontë's unique literary voice. She succeeded admirably. Published in 2003, the book received lavish praise, especially for its pitch-perfect tone. Writing in the New York Times, reviewer Miranda Seymour raved, "Emma Brown is a powerful and magnificently written novel that does ample justice to the two brief chapters from which it sprang."
Boylan died on May 16th, 2006, from ovarian cancer, a disease she had battled for several years.
Good To Know
In our interview, Boylan revealed some interesting anecdotes about herself:
"As children my sisters and I read late into the night by torchlight. When the torches gave out we made up our own stories, cliff-hanging serials that always stopped at the most spine-tingling moment."
"I became a professional writer because it was a hidden profession. I always looked too young and too small for a proper job. As a teenager I got a summer job in a grocery shop, but I looked so unimpressive that I was put in the back cutting the stalks off cabbages. The two old ladies who ran the shop would not even let me out to join the street parade for John F. Kennedy, who was visiting Dublin. I have never forgiven them for that."
"My first poem was published when I was 16. It was called "First Love." It earned me ten shillings and a fan letter from a handsome older man (with a blurred photo enclosed) who wrote poems about his wartime experiences. After a fever of correspondence we agreed to meet. What a shock! I couldn't believe anyone could be so old. He had neglected to mention that his service was in World War One. I never wrote another poem, but I did write a short story about the meeting and that set me on the path to fiction."
"Holy Pictures was my first novel, published in 1983. Home Rule, published nine years later, was inspired by an old photograph I found in a friend's house. I realized it fitted exactly my image of Nan's mother, Daisy, and knew I had to tell the story of Daisy's childhood and early marriage."
"I have always loved walking, talking, and reading and I like interesting ways to exercise. I am currently learning to box -- great for me, but a challenge for my instructor teaching a skinny, middle-aged five-footer. Next project is to learn to ride a bicycle. I have been driving since my 20s but never learned to cycle."