I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized On the Side of the Angels

On the Side of the Angels

Patricia Craig
Writing Home, by Polly Devlin, Pimpernel Press, 224 pp, £10.99, ISBN: 087-1910258330 This is a book of contrasts. Polly Devlin was born and grew up in Ardboe, Co Tyrone, on the shores of Lough Neagh, a sleepy spot deep-rooted in its ways. At the age of twenty or thereabouts, the girl from this remote corner of Northern Ireland was wafted, as in a fairy tale, to cosmopolitan London with the scintillating Sixties about to hit their stride. Polly too was about to hit her stride. As the winner of a Vogue talent contest, she had earned a glittering prize: a job on the magazine. Whatever diffidence or awkwardness she carried with her from out-of-the-way Ardboe and a horrible convent education soon gave way to journalistic expertise, social confidence and an intelligent appreciation of the world around her. She became features editor at Vogue and their principal interviewer of people in the news. Her interview with John Osborne caught the attention of Diana Vreeland, and as a consequence she spent two years in New York on the staff of American Vogue, closely allied with its redoubtable editor. (Her piece on Vreeland is a gem of self-deprecation, observation and humour.) Back in London, she married an old Etonian and friend of Antony Armstrong-Jones (the husband of Princess Margaret), had three delightful daughters and occupied a series of uniquely beautiful and fascinating houses, from Gloucestershire to Somerset and back again to London. All of this information is contained in the articles, anecdotes and mood-pieces assembled in Writing Home. From the very early, innocently jubilant letter to one of her sisters back in Ardboe, full of excitements and celebrities and clothes and cablegrams — “I flew first-class to Crete to talk to the wife of a writer called John Le Carre … I went up to the studios where Bailey was photographing Mick Jagger … and in came Jean Shrimpton …” — to the late, eloquent tribute to her brother-in-law Seamus Heaney, Polly Devlin treads a judicious path between candour and reticence. Her new book adds up to a kind of oblique autobiography, with certain facts of the author’s life disclosed bit by bit, along with her thoughts and opinions on a variety of subjects from Irish tinkers to the Sacred Groves of Ancient Greece. The contrasts come in with the changes of tone, of topic, of the experiences she has chosen to record. Her Ardboe childhood, in some ways…

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