This note accompanies the follow episode(s):
The Writer’s Almanac for April 24, 2017: What Have I Learned

Apr. 24, 2017: birthday: Clare Boylan

Today is the birthday of Irish novelist and journalist Clare Boylan (books by this author), born in Dublin (1948). She was the youngest of three girls, and her books all deal in some way with the relationships between mothers and daughters. Her own mother, Evelyn, had married young and worked in domestic service, which was what most young women in her generation did. But Evelyn, who was very intelligent in spite of not having received much formal education, wasn’t at all satisfied with that life. She always regretted not becoming a writer. She pressured Clare to take advantage of all the opportunities that she had been forced by circumstance to pass up. She lived through Clare, really. When she died many years later, Boylan wrote: “I really hope she’s taken flight and is finally in pursuit of her own destiny.”

Writing was one of the passions Evelyn had always encouraged Clare to follow, so when she graduated from the convent school in the 1960s, she took a job with the Irish Press. Female reporters were given all the fluff pieces in those days, but she wrote a series on “derelict women” for the Evening Press that won her a Journalist of the Year prize in 1974. Her first novel, Holy Pictures, was published in 1983.

In 2003, she published Emma Brown, which she described as “the only book I’ve written that didn’t feel lonely to write.” The book is a continuation and completion of an unfinished novel by Charlotte Brontë. Brontë only wrote the first two chapters and then abandoned the project. Boylan wrote a draft that she wasn’t happy with, and then spent a long time retracing Brontë’s footsteps in London until she felt she had sufficient insight into the author and the character. Emma Brown was Boylan’s last book. She died of ovarian cancer in 2006.