Monday 21 October 2019

A vibrant, loving spirit

Madeleine Keane

'O tell her, brief is life but love is long.'

From 'The Princess' by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

ON Wednesday morning last, I received an advance copy of This is How it Ends by Kathleen McMahon. This novel was the sensation of London Book Fair where the literary agent, Marianne Gunn O'Connor negotiated a huge publishing deal for its author.

Kathleen, an RTE journalist, is the granddaughter of Mary Lavin and the niece of Caroline Walsh, literary editor of the Irish Times. In her acknowledgments Kathleen thanked her aunt, among others, for her wise counsel.

Then on Thursday morning I heard the devastating news that Caroline had died, aged just 59.

We were neighbours first. I used to bump into Caroline at Scoil Bhride, the Gaelscoil our children attended.

We both lived in Ranelagh and occasionally we shared a bus into town to our respective offices.

Down the years we met at literary events. It was always a joy to see her, to swap news about our children and to share literary gossip.

She was funny, convivial, erudite, possessed of an easy charm.

She was also greatly admired and respected within the industry, a tireless promoter of Irish literature, and as passionate about books as she was knowledgeable.

I met her last in June with her husband, the teacher and novelist James Ryan, at a book launch. She was, as always, warm and amusing and gave me the inside track on her niece's publishing coup.

It is how I shall forever remember Caroline -- that shock of white hair, beautifully dressed, laughing, delighting in her twin passions -- family and literature.

Her absence will be felt by all of us in the world of Irish books. To her beloved James, Alice and Matthew who must endure the loss of her vibrant, loving spirit, our heartfelt sympathy goes.

May her gentle soul rest in peace.

Sunday Independent

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