By Joy Martin
In my novel, Seeking Clemency, Carrigrua, the graceful, blue-grey Georgian manor on the shore of Lough Derg, belongs to the Conroys, an Irish Catholic family. But Carrigrua was built at a time when Roman Catholics were still banned from holding rights to property and its first owners were well-to-do Protestant settlers: the only Catholics to set foot in it then would have been servants, or skivvies. After independence in Ireland in 1922, Georgian houses, with their unified style derived from Palladian architecture, were viewed as a symbol of British rule and alien to Irish identity. Nevertheless, wealthier Catholic families bought them – and felt that, in doing so, they had come up in the world.
In Seeking Clemency, the cruel matriarch, Olive Conroy sees Carrigrua as a fulfilment of her social aspirations. But to her grand-daughter, Caroline, Carrigrua is more than that. Much more. For Caroline’s fragile sense of self-worth is allied to the house, and to the Conroy family. To Caroline, as a child, the Conroys were quasi-divine: ‘as noble as the British royals. As golden as the Kennedys. Gorgeous just like Michael Caine and Terence Stamp and Princess Grace.’ Having spent her early childhood in Carrigrua, Caroline is devastated when her grandmother kicks her out and sends her to live with her father in England.
But this is something she’s been expecting. As she says: ‘I didn’t make it as a Conroy… I was a failure; second rate. I knew that, and so did Olive; you could see it on her face.’ But is Caroline right about that ? Or was there another, more sinister reason why Olive Conroy forced her to leave Carrigrua? Something Caroline begins to sense when, after an absence of 30 years,she returns to the house she loves.
Joy Martin was born in Limerick. A former journalist, she is the author of eight novels. Her agents are Coombs Moylett Maclean, 120 New Kings Road, Fulham, London SW6 4LZ.
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