The Librarian’s Cellar: At the Cinema: From Novel to Screen: Six Irish women writers who paved the way…

Always inspiring to see the novels of Irish female authors transfer to the big screen through film adaptations. A few that come to mind straight way are Edna O’Brien , Celia Aherne, the late Maeve Binchy, and Emma Donoghue. But how many others can you name?

I came up with the following Six:


1: Katherine Cecil Thurston: The Masquerader 

Katherine Cecil Madden was born in Cork in 1885. Thurston was her married name. Her novels were successful in both Britain and America. She also wrote The Gambler (1905) and Max (1910) Thurston’s career was cut short at the age of 36 when she was found dead in her hotel room in Cork.


John Chilcote, M.P (1904) Thurston’s political thriller, became the book and film, The Masquerader in the United States. It was filmed four times, the first as a silent film in 1912 under the title The Compact. The second production was in 1920, a Russian/French co-production titled Chlen parlamenta. It was also produced in 1922, and again in 1933 starring Ronald Colman


2: Dorothy McArdle: The Uninvited

Born in Dundalk in 1889 and from a wealthy brewing family, Dorothy was a journalist, novelist, playwright, teacher, political activist and historian. She wrote The Irish Republic,  a narrative account of the Irish War of Independence, and her novels include The Dark Enchantment (1953), The Unforeseen (1946) and Uneasy Freehold (1941), which later became The Uninvited (1942). She died in 1958.


The Uninvited (1944) starred Ray Miland, Ruth Hussey and Donald Crisp. A supernatural romance, it was directed by Lewis Allen with adaptation written by Frank Partos and Dodie Smith, (yes, she of The Hundred and One Dalmatians!)


3: R.A. Dick: The Ghost and Mrs Muir

R.A. Dick was the pseudonym of Irish writer Josephine Aimee Campbell Leslie. Very little is known about Josephine. She was born in Wexford in 1898 and died in 1979. She also wrote Duet for Two Hands (1960) and The Devil and Mrs Devine (1974).


The Ghost and Mrs Muir (1947) starred Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison and George Sanders. A supernatural romance, it was directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz with adaptation written by Philip Dunne. Philip also wrote the screenplay for The Last of the Mohicans (1992). A TV sitcom of The Ghost and Mrs Muir ran from 1968 – 1970.


4: Somerville and Ross: The Irish RM

Somerville (Edith Anna Somerville:1858-1949) and Ross (Violet Florence Martin: 1862-1915) were Irish cousins who collaborated on writing novels and short stories about the Irish society of their time.

The Irish RM

The successful TV series of ‘The Irish R.M.’ was based on their collection of short stories, Some Experiences of an Irish R.M. written in 1899. Other works by the authors include  An Irish Cousin (1889) and The Real Charlotte (1894)


5: Elizabeth Bowen: The Last September

Elizabeth Bowen was born in Dublin in 1899. Her works include Friends and Relations (1931) The Demon Lover and Other Stories (1945) and Eva Trout (1968). She died in 1973.

The last September

Set against the backdrop of the Irish War of Independence, and centred on the lives of the Naylor family in their Cork country mansion Danielstown, the film was released in 1999, starring Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon.


6: Time after time: Molly Keane

Molly Keane was born in Kildare in 1904, real name, Mary Nesta Skrine. Between 1928 and 1956, she wrote eleven novels, and some plays, under the pseudonym M.J. Farrell. She used her married name, Keane, for her later novels, several of which have been adapted for television.

Time after time


‘Time after Time’ (1986) was made for TV, and starred John Gielgud, Googie Withers and Trevor Howard. It was directed by Bill Hays, with screenplay written by Andrew Davies, who also wrote the screenplay for Bridget Jones Diary and lately, House of Cards, Mister Selfridge and War and Peace.



2 thoughts on “The Librarian’s Cellar: At the Cinema: From Novel to Screen: Six Irish women writers who paved the way…

  1. lindsayjsedgwick says:

    Very interesting Caroline. I knew the last three only. Inspirational!


  2. Thanks, Lindsay! Also works by Jennifer Johnson, Kate O’Brien (aka Mary Lavelle) and Iris Murdoch.


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