Alumni Spotlight

Henrietta McKervey - Fiction Writer

19 Feb
Henrietta McKervey

Henrietta McKervey is an award-winning fiction writer. Her first two novels, ‘What Becomes of Us’ and ‘The Heart of Everything’ were published to much critical acclaim with fans including Frank McGuinness and Eilís Ni Dhuibhne. She won the Maeve Binchy Travel Award in 2014, the Hennessy First Fiction Award in 2015 and the Irish Writers’ Centre Jack Harte Bursary in 2016. Her third book is due for publication in June. Henrietta’s father, the late Prof. Tony McKervey, was Professor of Organic Chemistry at UCC from 1976 to 1990. Read our interview with Henrietta below:

Course/subjects studied in University College Cork
BA English & Italian (graduated 1989)

Best memory of UCC 
The Cowpunchers Ball stands out as always being good fun. Is that still going?

How has your time at UCC helped you to get to where you are now?
I had always loved English, and reading, and though I knew early on that I wasn't interested in an academic career - unlike my father, who was working at UCC at the time - spending three years surrounded by literature, language, and people who gave reading and writing such time and attention, has stayed with me.

What is your advice to current UCC students?
I'm wary of giving generalised advice... maybe to Arts students I would say that my degree was a stepping stone; looking back it was less about opening specific doors and more about learning which were the doors I wanted to push.

What person/people at UCC had the most positive influence on you?
Professor Cali of the Italian Department taught Dante - I'd never read him before - and other great writers I hadn't encountered such as Montale and Italo Svevo. I remember how well Cali read from their work, and that sense it gave me of an opening up of the world. I studied Psychology in first year too. I wish I could remember the name of my tutor... she was a postgrad in the Department at the time, and I just loved her classes. I didn't keep up Psychology after first year, but I remember her tutorials as being so engaging and interesting.

Were you involved in any Clubs or Societies? 
I was secretary of the Italian Society one year, and active in the Drama Society for two years. We put on a production of ‘Hand Across the Sea’ by Noel Coward that sold out its (short) lunch-time run. The ticket price included lunch - my mother was in full-on quiche production mode that week! The Drama Society organised a drama competition for secondary schools that year too, which I was involved in.

Favourite UCC legend or superstition 
I didn't know there were any!

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