SOMERVILLE AND ROSS – LOVE AND LOSS
“They were great friends, they encouraged each other and had so much fun,” Martina Devlin says of Irish R.M. co-authors Somerville and Ross. But she saw no reason to push them into bed together in her new novel Edith because she found no evidence they were “pioneering lesbians”.
In the latest episode of the City of Books podcast, Martina hands over the microphone to guest interviewer and One Dublin One Book author Nuala O’Connor. She tells Nuala that Somerville and Ross’s relationship was a form of love. She adds: “I think it’s actually quite misogynistic to suggest that two women who collaborate together and support each other have also to be lovers. There are many kinds of love.”
Nuala said when she wrote Miss Emily about the poet Emily Dickinson she came across similar, intense female friendships which weren’t necessarily physical.
Somerville mourned Ross deeply after her death in 1915, and suffered a crisis of confidence about her ability to write. She overcame it by convincing herself they could communicate beyond the grave, and believed she continued to collaborate on books with Ross through spiritualism.
The novel is set in 1921-2 against a backdrop of big houses being burned down during the civil unrest leading to irish independence, and follows Edith’s attempts to save both home – Drishane House – and literary career.
Edith: A Novel by Martina Devlin is published by The Lilliput Press.