Edna O'Brien was born in 1930. Her brilliant debut novel, The Country Girls, was banned in her native Ireland upon its publication in 1960. Since then she has gone on to produce some of the finest writing of the 20th century. In Country Girl we hear of a life of high drama and contemplation, of encounters with Hollywood giants, pop stars, and literary titans. It is a life gorgeously, sometimes painfully remembered, in prose that sparkles with the effortless gifts of a master.
©2012 Edna O'Brien (P)2012 Canongate Books Ltd in partnership with Faber and Faber Ltd
"Her autobiography does more than recount the path-breaking life of a pioneer of Irish literature, and of women's fiction, who not only reflected change in her native land but helped to drive it forward. It is, above all, a portrait of the artist - and a record of her struggle to remain one, ever since the young pharmacist from rural County Clare, then miserably married and exiled in suburban Wimbledon, read TS Eliot's Introducing James Joyce and found that it lit a flame in her." (Boyd Tonkin from the Independent interview)
"It is, in its many parts, full of the O'Brien enchantments: the lushness about nature; the delicate balance of rapture and rupture in recapturing the experience of love; the feminine eye for clothes; the true ear for a story; the sharpness of specific recollections ... the entire narrative leaves you with an enchanted feeling of having been drawn into a life of great internal richness." ( Mary Kenny, Irish Independent)
"When an acclaimed writer and flamboyant character such as Edna O'Brien pens a memoir, we have the delicious prospect of reading the story of a life well lived, well told ... Country Girl is a terrific, gripping read ... It is easily forgotten that at the time O'Brien started out writing, very few women had established themselves as career novelists. O'Brien had to look within, to her own experience and feeling, creating a distinct style. With radical perception she wrote of her time, capturing the essence of a generation ... perhaps now, on its publication, is the time for a proper reassessment of Edna O'Brien as one of the great creative writers of her generation." (Mary Robinson, Irish Times)
"Wonderful, crystalline and true ... O'Brien is one of the last writers we have whose prose contains deep within it the cadences of the Bible and the liturgy and this gives the book a certain weight; I read it almost with a sense of mourning." (Rachel Cooke, Observer)
"Edna O'Brien is a bewitching and remarkable talent ... words, as she reveals in this exemplary memoir, have defined her entire life ... O'Brien's evocation of the I¬reland of her childhood is, as might be expected, delicately excoriating and deftly comic ... O'Brien's life reverberates with literary references, and it is her pin-prick sharpness and the fact that she is always "drawn into the wild heart of things" that makes both her and this book so alluring." (Helen Davies, Sunday Times)
Edna O'Brien reading Edna O'Brien? What more could I want? Well, I got what I wanted: haunting evocation of inhibited Irish childhood, the bliss and despair of love, the mythology of landscape and of fame, all transmitted with her inimitable language and verve. And with the bonus of her own voice: breathy, snatched, occasionally scornful (often of herself), wry, and always lyrical.
What I had not expected was honesty about her weaknesses - her inability to withstand her husband's demand for her earnings, her near-suicide - and a political engagement which is scorching in its attack on the Catholic Church and which takes on the complexity of the Northern Irish Troubles.
The earlier parts, about her childhood and young womanhood, and the later about her ageing, are the most vivid; her mid-life of fame and friendship with all the glossy names of the film world perhaps less so - though I admit I'm a sucker for such stuff. (Connery, Brando, Gore Vidal, Jackie Onassis, anyone?) Her method is somehow restrained yet sumptuous: as she says, there's 'more this / that / the other...more everything.' One anecdote towards the end will illustrate: she's staying at Antonia and Harold's delightful place in Dorset, and there's talk of Jude Law dropping by to discuss a script. She must be in her 70s at the time. She hopes Jude won't come - he'd disrupt the equilibrium. She wants to swim in the pool, but hesitates because she can't swim; she needs arm-bands, and knows that when her arm-bands blow up they advertise NIVEA CREME. Lurking near the pool, hoping for it to empty, she realises that Jude Law is walking towards her. He is an Adonis. He simply walks over and, without a word, kisses her. Pure, wonderful Edna O'Brien.
A wonderful book, a luminous journey through the loves and conflicts of a single life which is many lives in one, and a landmark of restraint and honesty.
An extraordinarily beautiful account of her life, losses and loves and so beautifully read by the author herself. Will listen to it again soon, already miss it.
I have finished listening to this recording (10 mins ago) and my imagination is dancing....what a treat to hear Edna's special expressive voice.
Mundane squeaky-clean religion being questioned & resulting in her family turning against her so harshly was one my favourite parts.
To combine painful memories with the love Edna has for humanity...well, it's beyond just words.
I have read many of Edna O'Brien's books over many years What an indulgence now to hear her beautiful voice reading her own memoirs to me. I listened twice and now I am reading her books again.
Her experiences, public and private were so interesting, from her Irish home and family to an international platform. You can sense this brilliant writer really wanted you to get to know her personally through the book. No half measures here. Gorgeous use of language as ever. Always the right phrase, and no false modesty about using the perfect word - even if I did need a dictionary once or twice. She has the same straightforward approach to showing us the sparkling range of 20th Century cultural icons she has counted among her friends. What a life. What a great woman!.
Full of name dropping and flowery over descriptions of the simplest things, this was painful listening. So much time was taken up on Google checking out names and claims to fame of the multitudes and the references to extracts of books and poems of the more famous.
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