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Monday, July 29, 2013

The Country Girls Trilogy by Edna O'Brien


"Upstairs in a bedroom two greyhounds moaned. It was the moan of death. Suddenly I knew that I had to accept the fact that my mother was dead. And I cried as I have never cried at any other time in my life." (Kate, Page 43)

About the Book (from wikipedia.com): Penguin Books, 1960; Kate and Baba are two young Irish country girls who have spent their childhood together. As they leave the safety of their convent school in search of life and love in the big city, they struggle to maintain their somewhat tumultuous relationship. Kate, dreamy and romantic, yearns for true love, while Baba just wants to experience the life of a single girl. Although they set out to conquer the world together, as their lives take unexpected turns, Kate and Baba must ultimately learn to find their own way.


"Lighthouses blinked and signaled on all sides and I loved watching the rhythm of their flashes, blinking to ships in the lonely sea. They made me think of all the people in the world waiting for all the other people to come to them. For once I was not lonely, because I was with someone that I wanted to be with." (Kate, Page 200)

     My Thoughts: The Country Girls Trilogy by Edna O'Brien (Plume Publishing, 1960) is a difficult book that you will heartily devour. Difficult because of the always looming tragedy that the reader can instantly sense, as though the characters have no hope of escaping their bleak destinies. This is a tale of a tumultuous friendship between Caithleen "Kate" Brady and Bridget "Baba" Brennan, and the role of women in 1950s Ireland. The Country Girls was originally banned in Ireland when first published due to what was considered, having at the time been considered scandalous as it addressed female sexuality. It is a coming-of-age tale that is processed through into adulthood with no questioning what becomes of these enigmatic characters.
     The first two books are told with Kate as the narrator and detail their beginnings, school years, and then life in Dublin as young women searching for independence while attempting to maintain social acceptance. Kate's life is deeply impacted by the death of her mother while she is a child and her father's alcoholism. She struggles to escape the fate that was dealt to her mother and discovers that she embodies many of the same weaknesses. After she and Baba plan a scheme to be expelled from the convent in which they were studying, Kate's dreams of a higher education are finished, withering her chance at a life different than the women before her.
     The third book is told via Baba, and the reader has the opportunity to view Kate with a new perspective. It is a realistic look at the relationship between husband and wife and the gradual unraveling of a marriage with glimpses at domestic violence, adultery, and controlling behaviors. In The Country Girls, O'Brien presents a sociological portrait of the plight of women and their struggles to not only have their voice heard but to find the voice they wish to project.

nytimes.com
About the Author (from wikipedia.com): Edna O'Brien (born 15 December 1930) is an Irish novelist, memoirist, playwright, poet and short story writer. She is considered the "doyenne" of Irish literature.O'Brien's works often revolve around the inner feelings of women, and their problems in relating to men, and to society as a whole. Her first novel, The Country Girls, is often credited with breaking silence on sexual matters and social issues during a repressive period in Ireland following World War II. The book was banned, burned and denounced from the pulpit, and O'Brien left Ireland behind. O'Brien now lives in London. She received the Irish PEN Award in 2001. Saints and Sinners won the 2011 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, the world's richest prize for a short story collection. Faber and Faber published her memoir, Country Girl, in 2012.


Happy Reading!
Rebecca

6 comments:

  1. I don't think I've ever heard of these which is a shame. They sound really really good! Powerful.

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    1. I really enjoyed this story. All three books with Epilogue were a combined 530 pages so it isn't as daunting as "trilogy" sounds. Thanks for visiting!
      Happy Reading,
      Rebecca

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  2. This is on my TBR shelf. I got it because it is on the Erica Jong list of Top 100 Novels by Women. Thanks for the review -- and reminder to read this!

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    1. Gilion-- I hope you enjoy The Country Girls Trilogy as much as I did. I would definitely be interested in reading more from Edna O'Brien. Thanks for visiting and following!
      Happy Reading,
      Rebecca @ The Key to the Gate

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    2. Gilion-- I hope you enjoy The Country Girls Trilogy as much as I did. I would definitely be interested in reading more from Edna O'Brien. Thanks for visiting and following!
      Happy Reading,
      Rebecca @ The Key to the Gate

      Delete
  3. I haven't heard of this trilogy...thanks for your post.

    Stopping by from Carole's Books You Loved August Edition. I am in the list as #36. My book entry is below.

    Elizabeth
    Silver's Reviews
    My Book Entry

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