Knockfane: A Novel


Homan Potterton

April 2019

Knockfane is an enthralling drama exploring inheritance, heirship and family legacy, set against the backdrop of the Ireland of its time and the conventions, customs, mistrust and suspicions which governed both Protestants and Catholics, as they come to terms with each other’s world in a rapidly changing society.

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Ireland in the mid-twentieth century, and Julia and Lydia Esdaile live with their widowed father, Willis, at Knockfane, a country house and farm where the Protestant Esdaile family have lived for centuries. When Willis inexplicably banishes his only son and heir, Edward, he concocts a complex plan to protect and preserve Knockfane for succeeding generations. But time passes, and Willis dies, and soon his intentions are threatened and thwarted by unforeseen events. Ultimately, it must fall to his daughters – the headstrong, confident Julia and the quiet, reflective Lydia – to protect the Knockfane legacy.

Suffused with gentle lyricism, this is an enthralling, elegant drama that explores the complexities of family, inheritance and legacy against the backdrop of the Ireland of its time, steeped in the conventions, customs, and deep-seated suspicions which governed both Protestants and Catholics in a rapidly changing society following Irish independence. Knockfane is a Big House novel for a new generation.


‘Absolutely terrific. Beautifully written and instantly engaging story … an exceptional literary accomplishment.’
Mary Kenny, Irish Independent

‘Clipping along like a well-sprung brougham on a country road . . . Knockfane is a delicate work of art . . . this well-crafted novel charts the dynastic vicissitudes of a country house and farm in 1950s rural Ireland… A fine and curiously engaging first novel from an author who [has] evidently been reading Balzac, resonates with the spirit of 19th-century French Realism.’
Peter Murray, Irish Arts Review

About the Author

Homan Potterton was Director of the National Gallery of Ireland (1980–8), and Editor of Irish Arts Review (1993–2002). His memoir of growing up in County Meath, Rathcormick: A Childhood Recalled (2002), and its sequel of his career in the London and Irish art world, Who Do I Think I Am? (2017) were both critically acclaimed.

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