Magazine article The Spectator

Talk of the Town

Magazine article The Spectator

Talk of the Town

Article excerpt

Talk of the town

Jane Gardam

THE VISITOR

by Maeve Brennan

Atlantic Books, L9.99, pp. 86, ISBN 190003809762

Atlantic Books has published for the first time a short novel by Maeve Brennan found posthumously among her papers. It has been welcomed as an amazing find.

Maeve Brennan died in 1993 in obscurity in America where she had lived since she was 17 in 1934. She was born in Ireland and her father was Ireland's first ambassador to America. For many years she worked for the New Yorker. She was enormously regarded, compared to Chekhov and Flaubert. Edward Albee said that 'to mention her in their company is only proper'. Now she seems to be little known.

She was a beauty but a recluse, living at the end of her life in a box-room in the New Yorker offices behind the ladies' lavatories where she would bob out and frighten people. She had nervous breakdowns and an unhappy marriage to an alcoholic. The picture is of intense loneliness.

The Visitor is a study of intense, interior loneliness, too, but loneliness so exquisitely described that it becomes a thing of beauty. It is also a study of quiet evil, resentment that poisons and erodes the soul. …

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