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Clair Wills

in conversation with Dame Jenni Murray


Missing Persons, or My Grandmother’s Secrets

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Sunday, 23 June 2024
5 PM - 6 PM
The Henrietta Barnett School

Cultural historian and English Literature professor, Clair Wills, will be discussing Missing Persons, or My Grandmother’s Secrets, uncovering the story of Ireland's unmarried mothers and unwanted children, told through three generations of an Irish family.

Detective story, memoir, cultural history and devastating work of non-fiction, Clair Wills’s book is a history of unmarried motherhood told through three generations of an Irish family. Clair unearths the story of the cousin she never knew she had, at the same time uncovering the story of Ireland's unwanted children. She asks how could a family - a whole country - abandon unmarried mothers and their children, erasing them from history?


Clair’s journey takes her from the 1890s to the 1980s, from West Cork to rural Suffolk and Massachusetts, from absent fathers to the grief of a lost child. The result is a moving, exquisitely told story of the secrets families keep, and the violence carried out in their name.

Clair Wills is a critic, cultural historian and Regius Professor of English Literature at the University of Cambridge.


“an expertly crafted work, at once vigorous and subtle which manages its effects and conserves its revelations with all the skill of a master novelist’,” John Banville, The Guardian


Dame Jenni Murray is a journalist, author and broadcaster, best known for presenting BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour from 1987 to 2020.

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