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Kate O'Brien (3 December 1897 - 13 August 1974), was an Irish novelist and playwright. After the success of her play, Distinguished Villa in 1926, she took to full-time writing and was awarded the 1931 James Tait Black Prize for her novel Without My Cloak. She is best known for her 1934 novel The Ante-Room, her 1941 novel The Land of Spices and the 1946 novel That Lady. Many of her books dealt with issues of female sexuality — with several exploring gay/lesbian themes — and both Mary Lavelle and The Land of Spices were banned in Ireland. She also wrote travel books, or rather accounts of places and experiences, on both Ireland and Spain, a country she loved, and which features in a number of her novels. She lived much of her later life in England and died in Canterbury in 1974; she is buried in Faversham Cemetery.

The Glucksman Library at the University of Limerick currently holds a large collection of O'Brien's personal writings [1]. In August 2005, Penguin reissued her final novel, As Music and Splendour (1958), which had been out of print for decades. The Kate O'Brien weekend, which takes place in Limerick, attracts a large number of people, both academic and non-academic.



She was born in Limerick City at the end of the 19th century. Following the death of her mother when she was five, she became a boarder at Laurel Hill convent. She graduated from the newly established University College, Dublin and then went to work at the Manchester Guardian.


  • Distinguished Villa: A Play in Three Acts (1926)
  • Without My Cloak (1931)
  • The Ante-Room (1934)
  • Mary Lavelle (1936) (made into a movie, Talk of Angels, in 1998)
  • Farewell Spain (1937)
  • Pray for the Wanderer (1938)
  • The Land of Spices (1941)
  • The Last of Summer (1943)
  • That Lady (1946) (Later a Broadway show [1949] and a movie [1955])
  • Theresa of Avila (1951)
  • The Flower of May (1953)
  • As Music and Splendour (1958)
  • My Ireland (1962)
  • Presentation Parlour (1963)

See also

External links

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