ALICE CAREY is a proud New Yorker, a fashion icon to many, a writer and a woman who came to West Cork to create a place she calls home.
In her memoir, Manhattan to West Cork, Alice examines her life and relives the good times, as well as the bad. She draws a line under a betrayal and a period of loss and pain that led her husband and herself to a ramshackle, almost derelict, old farmhouse at the end of an overgrown leafy laneway, just outside Durrus.
‘I remember the first day we saw the ‘Big’ house as we soon came to call that dark, grey, rain-soaked building. Even before we got there, we had to almost fight our way down the long rutted laneway. It was bleak, very bleak,’ Alice told The Southern Star.
In her book, Alice describes how her life in New York, as the only child and daughter of Irish emigrants, was shaped by the people and culture she was soon exposed to.
‘My mother worked for the legendary Broadway producer Jean Dalrymple and I, as a young girl, would tag along with my mother to Miss D’s apartment on Park Avenue,’ Alice said.
It was here at the Broadway producer’s apartment that Alice was exposed to the books, music, writers, actors and artists that would go on to shape her passion for creating and writing.
‘I experienced a life that showed this little Irish-American girl colour and fun and art. Meanwhile, my mother worked hard, saving every cent she could to take us on trips back to Ireland,’ Alice continued.
It was these long-awaited journeys back to Ireland to see where her mother and father hailed from that led to a defining moment for Alice.
Indeed, it is here that we find a departure from what a reader might expect.
It is here, as the reader is taken on the journey with a young Alice Carey to the Ireland of the 1960s, meeting her mother’s brother, Fr Bob, that the story takes a darker road.
‘It was a betrayal of innocence, I suppose. Did it ruin me? No, but it certainly woke me up to the reality of how good things can go bad.
‘It was a defining moment for me, it was a secret that I carried with me and I created a persona that helped me to bury the memories deep below the surface,’ Alice said.
Back in New York, Alice graduated High School and College and after working as a waitress, a substitute teacher, an actress and a model, married her husband Geoffrey Knox.
But it was at the height of the Aids epidemic in the 1980s that Alice volunteered for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, another life-changing event.
‘All our friends were in the arts and theatre and soon we saw firsthand the devastation Aids had on that community, our community. We, my husband Geoffrey and I, saw our close friends die, one by one. It got to a point when we needed to get away from all the death and loss. That’s when we came to Ireland and West Cork to look for a home,’ Alice continued.
Alice describes in her memoir the grey, cold day when she and her husband first saw the house on the road to Durrus.
‘We fell in love with it immediately. I suppose we let our hearts rule our decision but all these years later we’re not one bit sorry,’ Alice said.Now, almost 20 years have passed, and Alice has written her book about her experiences in Ireland, about creating a home and a space of her own, but also about dealing with a past that will always be with her.
‘We still have our apartment in Greenwich Village and I get back to New York often. It’s a part of me after all. What I want for my book is that one day somebody up in Dublin or Sligo or Killarney or wherever, will pick up a copy in a book store’s discount shelf for €1 and take it home to read. Each time this happens, I like to think that it will be a whole new beginning for my story. My story will go on; I suppose you could call it my legacy.’
Alice Carey will be reading extracts from her book Manhattan to West Cork in a sold-out show at Bantry House at the West Cork Literary Festival in Bantry this July.
‘Manhattan to West Cork’ is published by The Collins Press and is on sale now.