The Country Girls

Edna O'Brien's first novel.

Edna O'Brien

Edna O'Brien's wonderful, wild and moving novel shocked the nation on its publication in 1960. Her parish in Ireland considered it "a smear on Irish womanhood" and burned copies of the book. It is now widely celebrated for breaking silence on issues of sex and repression in the country.

The book follows two childhood friends. Cait appears to be the picture of Catholic purity, while Baba wants to live the life of a single woman. As the two grow up, their relationship grows increasingly competitive and complicated.

Excerpt | Author interview

From the book

I wakened quickly and sat up in bed abruptly. It is only when I am anxious that I waken easily and for a minute I did not know why my heart was beating faster than usual. Then I remembered. The old reason. He had not come home.

Getting out, I rested for a moment on the edge of the bed, smoothing the green satin bedspread with my hand. We had forgotten to fold it the previous night, Mama and me. Slowly I slid on to the floor and the linoleum was cold on the soles of my feet. My toes curled up instinctively. I owned slippers but Mama made me save them for when I was visiting aunts and cousins; and we had rugs but they were rolled up and kept in drawers until visitors came in the summer-time from Dublin.

From The Country Girls by Edna O'Brien ©1960. Published by Hutchinson.

Author interview

A conversation with one of Ireland's classic writers Edna O'Brien about her "Country Girls" trilogy, her latest novel about mothers and daughters, and her portrait of the Romantic poet Lord Byron. 54:00