Alice Taylor lives in the village of Innishannon in County Cork, in a house attached to the local supermarket and post office. Since her eldest son has taken over responsibility for the shop, she has been able to devote more time to her writing. Alice Taylor worked as a telephonist in Killarney and Bandon. When she married, she moved to Innishannon where she ran a guesthouse at first, then the supermarket and post office. She and her husband, Gabriel Murphy, who sadly passed away in 2005, had four sons and one daughter. In 1984 she edited and published the first issue of Candlelight, a local magazine which has since appeared annually. In 1986 she published an illustrated collection of her own verse. To School Through the Fields was published in May 1988. It was an immediate success, launching Alice on a series of signing sessions, talks and readings the length and breadth of Ireland. Her first radio interview, forty two minutes long on RTE Radio's Gay Byrne Show, was the most talked about radio programme of 1988, and her first television interview, of the same length, was the highlight of the year on RTE television's Late Late Show. Since then she has appeared on radio programmes such as Woman's Hour, Midweek and The Gloria Hunniford Show, and she has been the subject of major profiles in the Observer and the Mail on Sunday. To School Through the Fields quickly became the biggest selling book ever published in Ireland, and her sequels, Quench the Lamp, The Village, Country Days and The Night Before Christmas, were also outstandingly successful. Since their initial publication these books of memoirs have also been translated and sold internationally. In 1997 her first novel, The Woman of the House, was an immediate bestseller in Ireland, topping the paperback fiction lists for many weeks. A moving story of land, love and family, it was followed by a sequel, Across the River in 2000, which was also a bestseller. One of Ireland's most popular authors, she has continued writing fiction, non-fiction and poetry since.
A family feud is brewing in the rural depths of 1960s Ireland in this comfortable but unremarkable second novel by Taylor, a sequel to her first, The Woman in the House. At Mossgrove, the Phelan family farm, longtime hired hand Jack plays peacemaker as widow Martha Phelan battles her young son, Peter, who wants to modernize the farm. Tensions on the home front are bitter enough, but at the Conway farm across the river, more trouble is brewing. Slovenly Matt Conway, who has "wisps of foxy hair" and a "fascination with rats," feels trapped and abuses his wife, Biddy. Spurred on by a misguided belief that the Phelans got the best of him in a loan to buy land, he keeps vigil at a fence post plotting revenge and finally sets fire to the Phelan's freshly stacked hay. Then the town's parish priest, Father Brady goaded by malicious gossip about his relationship with happily married Kate Phelan, Martha's sister-in-law issues a sermon on protecting the "fruits of the Earth." Martha finally buries the hatchet with Peter as the family is faced with a serious matter that ties the book up nicely for readers, and Father Brady displays a sharp right hook to match his fiery rhetoric. Despite characterizations that lack complexity, Taylor's flair for the dramatic creates an atmosphere of suspense, and folksy witticisms and homey evocations of rural life round out the tale. (June) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Taylor's sturdy, workmanlike prose suits her story well, and this pleasant novel will leave readers caught in the Phelan tale and waiting for more.-- Booklist
Alice Taylor is an outstanding storyteller. Like a true seanchai, she uses detail to signal twists in the plot or trouble ahead. It is tightly plotted fiction, an old-fashioned page-turner.-- The Irish Times