The Librarian’s Cellar: Her Secret Rose

Inspired by the historical resources of private letters, journals, communications and published works, Orna Ross has created a fictional account of the relationship between W.B. Yeats and his muse of many years, Maud Gonne, of whom his imagination has placed her on a pedestal.

A weaving of their respective points of view allow us to glimpse into both sides of this extraordinary relationship; their passion for Ireland, for literature, for ancient myth and legend, and also their obsessions with the occult. As the lives of both characters continue to fascinate us, this fictional work gives us the opportunity to reimagine their relationship in a three-dimensional realm. Particularly, in the case of Maud Gonne, to see her, not just as an object of study for literary analysis or historical rhetoric – the six-foot beauty, the scandalous femme fatale – but also to know her, to feel her passion, her fears, her mistakes and her longings, which, worlds apart from the great poet’s, are just as powerful and desirous as his own unrequited love!

The new Speranza – as Yeats once described her, and liberated by her money, Maud’s fierce feminism, her political fervour, her fear of being oppressed by the norms of her societal era, and her fear of marriage opposing her innate desire for motherhood and nurturing, are explored. The plight of prisoners reminds her of the plight of women. To be a good woman is to be complicit in one’s own oppression. Good prisoners get overlooked and written out of the record and are kept in place by silence…for this reader, Maud Gonne excels as the stronger protagonist of this compelling literary coupling that in effect, never was!

Interspersed with the poetic works of Yeats, the story is also carried by a third-party narrative, the voice of Rose, the fictional witness, appearing intermittently to entwine the featured characters’ perspectives. I’m not sure that this element was necessary – I would have been just as happy to dive straight in to the weaving of these fascinating lives without the intrusion of this other voice. Their stories are strong enough to carry the novel to its conclusion on their own.

Details of where to purchase Her Secret Rose here

You can read more of Orna’s self-publishing journey with Her Secret Rose here