I first discovered Edna O’Brien in a New Yorker article written by Emily Stokes February 26, 2018, covering her recent trip to New York City. (As distinguished from the controversial 2019 article written by Ian Parker.)
Intrigued, I watched Edna O’Brien in a video, where she spoke about the loneliness of being a writer. I wondered if her work lived up to her artful use of “spin,” so I picked up her first work, “The Country Girls.” In this ensuing trilogy that captures Irish life and culture, I was transported to a world where melancholy and beauty became suffused with light and melded together as one. I became intertwined with the two characters, Kate and Baba, and they became one with me.
It is a terrible thing to lose one’s innocence, but innocence must be there from the start. Kate and Baba lose their innocence and struggle with this loss for the rest of their lives. For tough, little Baba innocence was never so grand in the first place, but for the sensitive and introspective Kate, her tender heart will never recover. Is author Edna O’ Brien all she’s cracked up to be? Her work is much more than a masterful rendering of her craft as a writer. Instead her work is a powerful retreat into life’s somber beauty.
I can see why Irish Catholic priests banned and burned this trilogy; they were unable to reckon with the truth embodied by the inner workings of two girls, who might, God forbid, muse about sex. This is especially disconcerting when we all know that girls were never valued by the Catholic Church in the first place. Edna O’Brien’s girls stubbornly defied the social norms to live out a larger story of unbridled human passion, and, ultimately, they paid the price. Now I’m on to reading other works written by Edna O’Brien….
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