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Dillon, Anna

London: Sphere Books



Plot Summary

The novel begins when Katherine Lundy is sent by her family to Dublin to reside in the household of Captain Lewis as a serving girl. Within months, the Captain has seduced her and after several nights of passion, Katherine learns she is pregnant. Terrified that the notoriously violent Captain will hurt her and her child, Katherine takes to the streets, where a prostitute named Tilly Cusack takes her under her wing. Tilly introduces Katherine to Bella Cohen, the most famous brothel mistress in Monto (Dublin’s Red Light District), and the older woman takes such a liking to Katherine that she hires her as an accountant and allows her to live in the brothel with her newborn son, Patrick. When Cohen dies, Katherine becomes her successor as Madam of the most exclusive brothel in Monto, where she lives a life of luxury.

Later in the novel, Katherine becomes reacquainted with her first love, Dermot Corcoran; they marry and have a baby girl. But Dermot, a long-time activist for Dublin’s poor, has found a new cause: he has become increasingly involved in the Irish Republican Brotherhood, who together with the Irish Volunteers are planning a political Rising in Dublin in order to fight for independence. However, Katherine knows that the Captain who impregnated her is a spy for the British, and so she attempts to make a deal with her former lover; she offers to divulge restricted information about the pending revolution in exchange for a document that claims Dermot is working for the Captain. She hopes that this document will therefore prevent her husband’s assassination should the Rising fail. The Captain has no intention of keeping his side of the bargain, though; the contract is a forgery and Dermot is killed in combat while fighting from inside the GPO. Betrayed, Katherine goes to the Captain’s house to confront him. When he attempts to slit her throat, she kills him with a tiny revolver hidden beneath her shawl.

The Rising over and her husband dead, Katherine takes her children and moves out of Ireland to begin a new life.

Main Characters

  • Katherine Lundy

  • Moire O’Neill (Granny O’Neill)

  • John Lewis

  • Dermot Corcoran

  • Tilly Cusack

Significant Minor Characters

  • Anne Lewis

  • The Brigadier

  • William Sherlock

  • Sheila Webb

  • Bella Cohen

  • Mickey

  • Patrick Lundy

  • Senga Corcoran

  • Patrick Pearse

  • James Connolly

  • Tom Clarke

  • Sean Mac Diarmada

  • Martin Moore

Publication History

The novel was first published in paperback in January 1988 by Sphere Books (a division of the Penguin Group) in London. Subsequent paperback editions were reprinted by Time Warner Paperbacks (UK) in July 1988, St. Martin’s Press (New York; a division of MacMillan) in 1989 and by the Poolbeg Press (Dublin) in 2003. Hardback editions were reprinted by Inner Circle Books (UK) in November 1988 and by St. Martin’s Press in June 1989. Novel is currently out of print.

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