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A Pagan Place

3.71  ·  Rating Details  ·  168 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
A PAGAN PLACE is Edna O'Brien's true novel of Ireland. Here she returns to that uniquely wonderful, terrible, peculiar place she once called home and writes not only of a life there--of the child becoming a woman--but of the Irish experience out of which that life arises--perhaps more pointedly than in any of her other works. This is the Ireland of country villages and bar ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published May 14th 2001 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 1971)
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Best Books of 1970
72nd out of 143 books — 48 voters
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Edna O'Brien
9th out of 37 books — 2 voters

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A. Mary
Oct 01, 2012 A. Mary rated it it was amazing
Shelves: irish-novels
This is my favourite O'Brien. All of the earmarks of her fiction are here, but the protagonist, speaking to "You," so that the reader somehow is the protagonist in a masterful deflection, retains innocence in the midst of experience. The narrative has occasional leaps, appropriate to a child memory, and You is primarily an observer, a peripheral player. The only person in the family with a name is the older sister, Emma. The mother is "she," and the father is "he." In the midst of the events, fr ...more
Too soon to write a review, I'm still in a daze from this book. A whole childhood is summoned from the intricate details of a girl's life and from the half-understood details of the lives of the adults around her. Stylistically, it really opened my eyes to the potential of second-person narration. (If that bugs you in the first few pages, stick with it, I promise it's worth it.)

My (Penguin) copy isn't listed on this site, so it might be worth quoting its back cover:

In a diary-like stream of imag
Apr 20, 2008 Steven rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels, irish
O'Brien is one of my favorite writers and this was the first book of hers that I read, the one that hooked me. The first 69 pages are some of the most amazing writing I’ve ever read. Narrative convention is completely dispensed with—and think how risky that is at the start of a novel—as we enter into some kind of stream of consciousness rendering of childhood memories, not chronologically remembered, but jumping all over the place and taking in events of personal, family, village, and national s ...more
Michael Forester
Nov 24, 2015 Michael Forester rated it really liked it
I decided to read 'A Pagan Place' a few weeks back when I realised I had read nothing by Edna O'Brien - an anomaly that, now corrected, leaves me wanting to read more of her work.

Some books have the power to freeze frame time. This book has the power to reverse it, to carry us back to an era long passed. Written an astonishing 45 years ago, it reads as vibrantly now in conjuring of the Ireland of the 1940s as it would have done when first written.

Edna O'Brien's is an Ireland of country charm a
Ceelee Sunshine
Sep 29, 2015 Ceelee Sunshine rated it it was amazing
This is my first reading experience with Edna O'Brien and won't be the last! Being of Irish descent, I I was fascinated by her account of life in a small Irish town. At first I thought the narrator was talking to a child but as I went along, i realized the child was grown and I wondered why such a narrative with an adult, but I thought maybe it was for some purpose such as the woman being ill or in a coma. Now i realize the narrator was also the "You" as she was speaking to herself. Pretty amazi ...more
Karin A.
Nov 16, 2014 Karin A. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014-read
Loved this book. Love Edna O'Brien' s style of writing. This one was if a narrator told the story through a child's mind of what she saw and thought, the adult revisiting her childhood. It is a depiction of genuine Ireland of old but not so long ago,complete with emotions, suffering, cover-ups for mishaps, poverty, alcohol etc. Coming off age story for a young girl.
Aug 24, 2015 Lisa rated it really liked it
It took work to follow the third-person narrative and to figure out who "he" and "she" referred to. But the work was rewarded by the rich and complex social issues relayed subtlety in the plot. The late 1930's/early 1940's was a difficult time in Ireland, particularly for women and people working in the fields. These hardships were told by the point of view of a girl becoming a woman in a creative and powerful way.
Aug 22, 2011 Phil rated it it was amazing
I read The Country Girls a long time ago so had an idea what to expect from Edna O'Brien. This is superb though - a cross between Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, A Child's Christmas in Wales and The Thorn Birds. A brilliant evocation of growing up in rural Ireland around the war years - no private cars, no private telephones, horse rides into the village, making do and mending and catholic guilt by the ton. Written in the second person - which is very very unusual (the main character is a ...more
Dec 07, 2015 Stephen rated it really liked it
I liked the early parts best before the protagonist's downfall. The description is so poetic, better than most poetry.
Jun 23, 2015 Charlotte rated it liked it
This book is told from the author to herself, and it took me a while to get into the writing style. But it is a captivating book about growing up in rural Ireland under severe religious and financial constraints.
Oct 26, 2010 Laurie rated it it was amazing
Edna O'Brien certainly deserves more recognition than she gets. This book is excellent. Stream of consciousness from a narrator that is at once talking to the main character about her childhood life in the Ireland of country folk, small town conventions, and such and is the stream of consciousness of the main character. Jumps all over the place just as one's thoughts do when young (and not so young actually!).
Casey Wolf
Jan 20, 2010 Casey Wolf rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a reread. God she is good! Once I get over the fact that this is not a novel but, the first half, anyway, a stream of consciousness (but a LUCID and easily and enjoyably followed one) I settle into the sheer pleasure of it. The first 80-some pp are a child's eye view of life in Ireland in the 60s (50s?). Brings [Portrait of the Artist:] as a Young Man to mind in some ways.
Sep 08, 2015 Emmkay rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2014-reads, irish
It took me a while to get into this novel - second person, stream-of-consciousness narration, which is initially quite episodic - but I'm very glad to have stuck it out. Breathtakingly sensory, corporeal portrait of a rural Irish girlhood.
Nov 02, 2013 Lisa rated it really liked it
A great book about life in Ireland. The ways of thinking of many an Irishman were brought out in this book. I was drawn into the book and loved how the perspective of the younger daughter was brought out to the forefront.
Linda Campbell Franklin
Quite a wonderful read. Haven't read much of her work. Was struck by the "flash fiction" paragraphs here and there.
Jul 30, 2012 David rated it it was amazing
Written like daydreaming recollection, poetic, it tells the story of a girl growing up in rural Ireland.
Mar 29, 2007 kevin rated it really liked it
Joycean stream of concious style story, told in second person narration. Simple language made beautiful.
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Goodreads Librari...: Alternative Book Cover 3 10 Jul 29, 2014 12:56PM  
Suoerb: her best novel 1 2 Jun 25, 2011 05:40PM  
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Edna O’Brien (b. 1930), an award-winning Irish author of novels, plays, and short stories, has been hailed as one of the greatest chroniclers of the female experience in the twentieth century. She is the 2011 recipient of the Frank O’Connor Prize, awarded for her short story collection Saints and Sinners. She has also received, among other honors, the Irish PEN Award for Literature, the Ulysses Me ...more
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