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Irish-South African Author Bree O'Mara Killed in Libya Plane Crash

Bree O'MaraHome AffairsKwaZulu Natal based author Bree O’Mara, whose first novel, Home Affairs, won the inaugural Citizen Book Prize, was on board the Afriqiyah Airways flight that crashed in Tripoli, Libya yesterday, leaving no survivors apart from a small boy.

O’Mara was apparently an Irish passport holder; Irish news source RTE confirms her presence on the flight.

A 30 Degrees South author, O’Mara was due to attend the London Book Fair in April, but was prevented from flying there by volcanic ash, along with scores of other South Africans. According to one BOOK SA source, she was en route to the UK via Tripoli to pursue missed LBF-related opportunities.

On the LBF debacle, O’Mara wrote what, in retrospect, was a piece of tragic augury for The Citizen:

So how does an award-winning author travel, you ask? Is it a) in a private jet? b) in First Class? c) Business, perhaps? The answer is e) none of the above. If I piqued your curiosity with the above question, then truthfully-had there been no fallout from a little volcano a world away from the sunny skies of Africa-the answer would have been: d) squashed into Economy, like most people. Oh, and via Tripoli, no less. But fallout there has been; a massive shut-down of the skies on an unprecedented scale.

The result? No London Book Fair for Bree, nor for a great many of the South African publishers and authors who were due to be showcased at this year’s LBF. That the Market Focus of this year’s Book Fair is South Africa makes this a double-whammy all round, a point which many of the Citizen’s competitors have failed to make in their coverage of the event. The SA publishing industry won’t get to reap the benefits of being in the spotlight, because most players didn’t make it over.

To say that I’m disappointed is an understatement. But let’s get some perspective here. This is books we’re talking about; not life-saving bone marrow transplants. Yes, I live, eat and breathe books, but I’ll live, eat and breathe them with or without the Book Fair: once a bibliophile, always a bibliophile. And at least I’m better off on the ground than I would be up in the air. Or possibly even in Tripoli.

After she won the Citizen Book Prize in 2007, a profile of O’Mara – and an excerpt from her book – appeared at KZN Literary Tourism:

Bree O’Mara was born in Durban on a Thursday in July, just in time for lunch. Both her parents were Irish. They eloped to South Africa because Bree’s father had passed through Durban during the war and thought the weather was better than the weather in Dublin.

Bree started out life in the theatre and performed for all four performing arts councils before the diet of lettuce and watercress became altogether too much to bear. Leaving South Africa as a naive and impressionable girl in 1992 (which was the last time she was either) she went to live in the Middle East, working as the least likely stewardess ever for the national carrier of Bahrain. She traveled to heaps of countries all over the world and can tell you with some authority that the best public toilets are in Singapore.

O’Mara also kept an active homepage at at, where she posted a notice of her second book, Nigel Watson, Superhero, and wrote this about herself on her bio page:

  • I was originally left-handed but was made to write with my right hand.
  • I always write in bed, in pyjamas or a tracksuit.
  • My favourite authors include Stephen Fry, Nick Hornby, PJ O’Rourke, David Sedaris, PG Wodehouse, David Bennun, Joanne Harris, Tobias Wolff, JM Coetzee…and I keep adding to this list every day. (So many fantastic writers, so little time.)
  • I follow Formula 1 with a passion bordering on the obsessive.
  • I detest artichokes and asparagus.
  • Brussels sprouts are by far my favourite vegetable after chocolate (say what you like, cocoa is a bean).
  • I suffer from tinnitus. It competes with the voices in my head…

O’Mara is survived by “family in the UK and South Africa“.

Book details


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Jassy</a>
    May 13th, 2010 @10:18 #

    This is so, so terrible - I am feeling sick. I met Bree just a week ago when she invited me to speak at the Literary Cafe, her wonderful initiative for book people in Hartebeespoort where she lived. After the launch we sat and chatted about books, writing and all sorts of things - and also joked about the "reliability" of flying on Afriquiyah Airways. She was such an amazing person and a talented writer who deserved international recognition. All my sympathies are with her husband Chris.

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    May 13th, 2010 @10:22 #

    The Literary Cafe is something I'm very sorry didn't attract BOOK SA's notice earlier:

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    May 16th, 2010 @16:38 #

    The Hartbeespoort Kormorant has published a tribute to O'Mara:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    May 16th, 2010 @23:52 #

    Awful. I responded with muted shock and horror to news of the crash, but this has given a very sharp and personal focus to the multiple loss and grief involved. Bree seems so vivid and lively in these few lines. Condolences to all who loved her.


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