Edna O’Brien is an Irish author, born in 1930. Her first book, the Country Girls (1960), was banned in Ireland as it sparked a lot of controversy because it describes the sexual tensions between girls in Catholic schools and the sexual relationship between non-married couples. In her memoir she gives glimpses of a life which started in the poor Irish countryside to dinner parties with the rich and famous in London and New York.
the Country Girls trilogy is based on her own experiences; a childhood in a strict religious home, crushing on the nuns in the convent she was educated in and running off with a married man. I read the trilogy last summer, and I’m glad I did before I read the memoir, and it is interesting to compare the fiction to the reality. I really enjoyed the reality; she does a marvellous job describing the scene when her family comes looking for her and the fight which followed. She eventually marries the man, Ernest Gébler, and they have two children together. But the marriage doesn’t last, and the battle between the couple, and especially over the custody of the children, is heartbreaking.
She also describes the amazing parties with famous people and drugs in the 60s and 70s. There is plenty of name-dropping and anecdotes. My favourites were when her children was sung to sleep by Paul McCartney and when she was kissed by Jude Law (I love that she describes him as an Adonis). But she is at her best when she describes her surroundings; the houses and cities she has lived it. She also gives a crash-course in the Troubles in Northern-Ireland, and I think it is the best chapter in the book.
Although it was fascinating to read about her life, I felt that she was distant; I never really got to know Edna, but got a good look at the world through her eyes. She is good at describing other people and the books and writers which influence her. She doesn’t say much about her own work, except mention it in relation to other people. I enjoyed the memoir, and I will definitely keep reading her books. And so should you!
I bought the memoir when it was published last year, and I’ve been meaning to read it right away (as I always do, the problem is that I buy too many books). Ingalill’s biographies challenge
gave me the push I needed to finally do so.
Kate and Baba are both married and living in London. Kate is married to Eugene, the man she once fell in love with and they have a child, but she has an affair with a politician. Baba is married to Frank, who is extremely rich, but also a violent drunk.
Final book in the Country Girls trilogy, and the most disappointing one. Mainly because it doesn’t give the full picture and is more rushed. And I definitely didn’t like how Kate turned into a suffering woman. What saves this book is that for the first time Baba is the narrator. And she is as witty as Kate is whiny.
I’m not happy that this didn’t give any proper finale for the trilogy – just more unanswered questions. I also didn’t like that the entire book was set in London instead of Ireland, it lost some of its charm that way.
(also published as the Lonely Girl)
Kate and Baba are still working in Dublin, dirt poor and out to find boys. Kate meets a much older gentleman, Eugene. Eugene is a film maker, lives on an estate, and worse; Protestant and divorced. Kate falls head over heels and starts to sleep over and eventually moves in. Something her drunken father isn’t pleased to find out about.
The second book in the Country trilogy and I liked this one much more than the first one. This is wittier and has more action. And I liked the sexual awakening of Kate and her journey from a innocent young Catholic to a lover. However, I didn’t like how little Baba appeared in this one as she’s always hilarious and I love her and her standard-phrase to Kate; you’re a right looking eejit.
I’m eagerly waiting for the final book in the trilogy to show up in my mailbox and I have put more books by Edna O’Brien on my wish list.
Caithleen and Baba grew up together on the Irish country side and are sent to a convent when they are fourteen. Caithleen comes from a poor home and her father is a drunk, while Baba comes from a richer home where the mother is the drunk. The girls hate the convent and they try to get expelled so they can go off to Dublin and meet nice boys.
Caithleen and Baba don’t have the best of friendship as Baba is always walking over Caithleen, but they do not really have anyone else. And while Caithleen is the smart and serious one, Baba is the airhead who only thinks about boys.
I really enjoyed reading this book, it was a perfect light summer read although it has its depth. And I certainly can understand why this book and the following sequels were burnt and banned in Ireland in the 1960s.
I’m also glad I found the Lost Girl / Girl with Green Eyes in a used book store in Seattle as I just had to figure out what Caithleen and Baba get up to in Dublin. I’m also browsing every used book store in my way to find the last book in the trilogy. And Edna O’Brien is one of those author I definitely am going to read more of.