In praise of Maura Laverty, by Anna Carey

Irish Women Writers series: ‘It was the first time I’d read fiction about an Irish girl’s adolescence that wasn’t grim’

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When I discovered the semi-autobiographical novels of Maura Laverty as a teenager back in the early 1990s, it was a revelation. It was the first time I'd read fiction about an Irish girl's adolescence that wasn't grim. In Never No More (1942), we meet 13-year-old Delia Scully, who lives with her loving grandmother in a Kildare village. In the even better sequel, No More Than Human (1944), Delia heads to Spain to work, not very successfully, as a governess. The books are funny and lively and enormously likeable. And Laverty was also a radio agony aunt, the author of several witty, practical cookery books (Full and Plenty was an Irish household staple for decades) and the creator of the first Irish soap opera, Tolka Row. No More Than Human was initially banned in Ireland, but Laverty's fans included Sean O'Faolain and Maeve Binchy (who wrote introductions to the 1942 and 1985 editions of Never No More respectively) and Brendan Behan, who sent her a fan letter from Arbour Hill. Her novels are, inexplicably, out of print now, but I treasure my 1980s Virago Modern Classics editions. Other favourites: Elizabeth Bowen and Maria Edgeworth.

Anna Carey is the author of four novels for young adults, the most recent of which is Rebecca Is Always Right. Her first book The Real Rebecca won the Senior Children’s Book of the Year prize at the 2011 Irish Book Awards.