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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Country Girl by Edna O'Brien

Edna O'Brien's evocative memoir takes the reader on a wild ride from her idyllic country upbringing in Ireland where her grandmother churned milk to Bohemian life in London and huge success.  One can almost smell the fresh milk and cream when O'Brien describes her old-fashioned country upbringing in Ireland.  As a young girl, she had to endure her teacher's bullying and her father's drunkenness, but she was certainly brought up in a beautiful landscape.

She became a chemist in Dublin in the '50's, and writes about a backward city in which the Bishop spied on unmarried couples and everyone knew what everyone else was doing.  Here, she fell in with a crowd of writers, including Patrick Kavanagh.  He was with 'a lady of the night' while a priest called him from the street.

O'Brien went through a harrowing time with her brooding and abusive husband, and had to fight him for custody.  This is an upsetting part of the book, but her success gave her the life in London that she'd always dreamed about.  I enjoyed this part of the book the best.  Here, she went home from a party with a talkative and handsome Robert Mitchum, and surprised her sons by bringing Paul McCartney home to sing to them.

She also loved New York and became good friends with Jackie Kennedy.  I enjoyed reading about this friendship, and a more intimate account of Jackie Kennedy. 

The chapter about the IRA and the 'Irish Problem' is deeply troubling, and O'Brien's description will stay in your mind.  It's well worth reading.

This is a beautifully written series of vignettes which any fan of Edna O'Brien will enjoy.

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