One of my favourite books growing up, though I find O’Brien’s writing far more mannered than I used to.
I think it was the cover image as much as anything else that made me choose this book off the shelves at the library. It’s Miss Ffrench Mullan by Cecil Salkeld, who did some spectacularly unsettling pictures that to my mind echo the unveiling of the unconscious by the Surrealists. Here are Leda and the Swan and Mother and Child:
Leda is from liveauctioneers.com; Mother and Child from artnet.com
You can see why Salkeld was such a good fit for O’Brien’s writing, which often explores women’s pain, but is also of the same era. The image chosen by Virago for ‘Mary Lavelle’ is even better, as it could portray either Juanito’s wife Luisa, or Mary’s own dress on first meeting her:
Luisa was a fair-haired Castilian. Her eyes were green-gold and her skin had a gold bloom on its pallor. She was slender, and wore a dress of a dead gold colour…But Greek, however unsuspecting and untried, usually knows Greek.