Beginner’s Pluck

Selina Guinness

When Guinness was 11, she lived with her uncle and grandmother in their rambling farmhouse, rather than board at school. After university, she went to Budapest to work for a professor there, and then to London, where she freelanced for BBC Radio 4.

Guinness then took a PhD at Oxford University, returning to Ireland in 1999, when she and her husband moved back in with her uncle. After his death, she took over the house, and the running of the farm, while working in academia. She edited an anthology, The New Irish Poets.

Who is Selina Guinness?

Date of birth: Dec 30, 1970.

Education: St Columba’s College. Trinity College Dublin, English.

Home: The Dublin Mountains.

Family: Husband Colin, children, Mel, Kim and Ivor.

The Day Job: Lecturing in English at the Dun Laoghaire College of Art and Design.

Hobbies: None. There’s no time.

Favourite Writers: Yeats; John Le Carré; Sebastian Barry; and debut author of Jammy Dodger, Kevin Smith.

Second Novel: I have the gentle dawning of a novel. But I may write another documentary memoir.

Top Writing Tip: Don’t write as I do! I do backstitching. I unpick the paragraph from the day before, before I can proceed. I write extremely slowly.

Twitter: @SelinaGuinness

THE DEBUT

The Crocodile at the Door. Penguin Ireland, €18.99; Kindle, €9.42

Guinness recounts the story of her inheritance of the historic house, Tibradden. As academics with a new baby, it was tough getting to grips with farming methods, while still being fair to the tenants and workers. And then, the property developers came calling.

“There was a huge gulf between my life in academia, and the people I engaged with in farming. I admired the way farming people were politically engaged. And on a parallel level, property developers talked of land as money, and I was thrust into a community where it was occupation, memory and work. It was the fabric of their lives. There was a terrible imbalance there.”

The Verdict: A wonderfully affectionate memoir beautifully told; Guinness’s prose positively glows.

— Interviewed by Sue Leonard

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