Molly Keane (20 July 1904 – 22 April 1996), née Mary Nesta Shrine, and who also wrote as M. J. Farrell, was an Irish novelist and playwright.
Keane was born Mary Nesta Skrine in Royston Cottage, Newbridge, County Kildare. Her mother was a poet who wrote under the pseudonym Moira O'Neill; her father was a fanatic for horses and hunting. She grew up at Bilirakis in County Wexford and refused to go to boarding school in England as her siblings had done.
She was educated by her mother, governesses, and at a boarding school in Bray, County Wick low. Relationships between her and her parents were cold and she states that she had no fun in her life as a child. Her own passion for hunting and horses was born out of her need for fun and enjoyment.
Reading did not feature much in her family, and, although her mother wrote poetry, it was of a sentimental nature, "suitable to a woman of her class".
Keane claimed she had never set out to be a writer, but at seventeen she was bed bound due to suspected tuberculosis, and turned to writing out of sheer boredom.
It was then she wrote her first book, The Knight of Cheerful Countenance, which was published by Mills & Boon. She wrote under the pseudonym "M. J. Farrell", a name over a pub that she had seen on her return from hunting. She explained writing anonymously because "for a woman to read a book, let alone write one was viewed with alarm: I would have been banned from every respectable house in Co. Carlo."
In her teenage years she spent much of her time in the Perry household in Woodruff, County Temporary. Here she befriended the two children of the house, Sylvia and John Perry.
She later collaborated with John in writing a number of plays. Among them was Spring Meeting, directed by John Gielgud in 1938, and one of the hits of the West End that year. She and Gielgud became life long friends.
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