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The Country Girls Trilogy and Epilogue

(The Country Girls Trilogy #1-3)

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  1,584 ratings  ·  163 reviews
The Country Girls Trilogy and Epilogue is an absolutely engaging saga that is, thematically, about opposites - opposite dispositions and opposite views of life, the survivor versus the ungovernable romantic. It charts unflinchingly the pattern of life, for women, from the high spirits of youth to the chill of middle age, from hope to despair. It is both painful and hilario ...more
Hardcover, 532 pages
Published May 1st 1986 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1986)
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3.88  · 
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 ·  1,584 ratings  ·  163 reviews


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Sara
Aug 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The smartest and most hilarious possible response to the catastrophe of being born female in the rural west of Ireland at mid-century.

The trilogy actually encompasses three books – The Country Girls, The Lonely Girl, and Girls in Their Married Bliss. They follow the highly intelligent but spacy Caithleen and her forcefully self-centered “best” friend Baba on a trajectory that huge numbers of Irish women’s lives took during those decades – from farm to convent school to Dublin and finally into Lo
...more
Yulia
Aug 10, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: women with great caution
What a roller coaster this put me on. While reading it, I was sincerely frightened for the characters and for my own fate in life, I pounded the pillow in helpless distress and needed to be comforted by Frank that, if it made me feel so much, she must be doing something right. But it was agony, not beautiful agony, but masochistic, call-your-therapist agony. The pain it induced was more than I'd bargained for. As I approached the end, I thought, this is a work I want to own, to add to my colecti ...more
Wilhelmina Jenkins
Apr 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
Reading this trilogy was an interesting experience for me because I read the first two books, The Country Girls and The Lonely Girl, as a teenager back in the '60s. In my opinion, those two books held up very well. Kate and Baba are best friends, although Baba frequently treats Kate, the more scholarly and sensitive girl, quite unkindly. Ultimately, the girls, later women, are the constant factor in each other's lives. Searching for a life beyond their restrictive small town life and convent sch ...more
Barbara
Jul 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Edna O'Brien catches the details of a culture and a period of time that seems to have occurred one hundred years ago rather than in the early 1960's. She writes with an honesty and lack of sentimentality that drew me into the story and the characters. My criticisms are all minor compared to those qualities.
Sara
Apr 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
The Country Girls Trilogy and Epilogue is a compilation of three novels that span the lives of two girls, from childhood through middle age, who were both rivals and friends in rural Ireland. The first of the three novels, The Country Girls introduces us to Caithleen and Baba. Caithleen is practically raised by a single mother, her father often drunk and absent, leaving them with little or no money most days, while Baba's father is good provider who comes home every night, even if the family isn ...more
Ilse Wouters
This book is the collection of 3 separate books which were published in the 1960s followed by an epilogue written in 1986, all dealing with the same main characters, Caithleen and Baba, from their childhood in the Irish countryside to their married years in London. The first 2 books are narrated by Caithleen, while the third one is told mainly from the perspective of Baba.
I see here a lot of very high ratings for this book, but I have double feelings : on one hand, the books are clearly well wr
...more
L.A.Weekly
Jun 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
EDNA O'BRIEN: IRELAND'S OTHER LITERARY HEAVYWEIGHT
By Jim Ruland

O’Brien’s relationship with Ireland has always been a cantankerous one. Her first novel, The Country Girls, written in 1959 during a three-week frenzy, was condemned by the minister of culture as a “smear on Irish womanhood.” The book, which deals with the sexual awakening of a young woman from a small village in west Ireland, was promptly banned. As were her next eight novels.

The problem? O’Brien writes about sex and its repercussio
...more
Emmkay
Loved it. The trilogy consists of 3 novels - The Country Girls, The Lonely Girl, and Girls in their Married Bliss - and an epilogue, focusing on a pair of friends whom we first encounter as 14 year olds in a rural Irish village. I wondered if Elena Ferrante read these before writing the Neapolitan novels, because there were certainly similarities in the relationship between the two girls and in the acute social and gender commentary (but with more of a focus on the church as well in O’Brien). Bu ...more
Bethany
Apr 21, 2011 rated it liked it
I honestly don’t know what to say about this trilogy. I’m not even sure how I felt about it, really. I can’t say I loved these books, no; I didn’t love them. None of the characters were lovable, not even the main characters Baba and Caithleen. Yet I couldn’t help but care what happened to them. Even as I watched their lives spiral downwards, them make decision upon bad decision; nothing could’ve induced me to stop reading. It wasn’t like being unable to look away from a train wreck yet I suppose ...more
Gail
Aug 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of Irish stories; catholics
I've only read the first part so far; waiting for the complete edition from Amazon.

O'Brien captures perfectly, in my opinion, the era and place she is concerned with. Not as downtrodden as "Angela's Ashes" by any means, but certainly far, far from sweetness and light. The pervading sadness and sense of claustrophobia subsuming the girls' lives struck me as true to life. The Catholic upbringing and the narrowness of the girls' options reflect my memories of those days pretty well. (Of course, we
...more
Maria Strale
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best books so far this year! The three books are just brilliant!
Although Neapel and Ireland are very different, these books give strong Ferrante vibes...
Linda Aull
Jul 31, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: maindishfiction
This was just the kind of book(s) I've been yearning for. It's pretty melancholy, but I love any survival themes, especially friendships that survive through time. I understand that these are O'Brien's early works, and are harbingers of the good to come, so I am eager to read some of her more mature pieces.

I've read many comments about the shift in narrator for the third book, but I really liked it and thought it was an authentic and refreshing change. Caithleen/Kate was so passive and completel
...more
Lisa
Mar 25, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting three books plus epilogue. Not sure what to make of them, though. They were written in the 1960s and the epilogue was written in 1986. Different. Unique. Well written. But just different. I easily read it. Not sure if I exactly liked the two main characters, which maybe why I'm so ambivalent about this book. The four stories contained in this one book are The Country Girls, The Lonely Girl, Girls In Their Married Bliss, and then the Epilogue. They follow two friends, Kate ...more
Fran
Dec 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I admire Edna O'Brien's writing and this book. Although I did not really like the main characters, kept me reading and wanting to get back to it when I wasn't. The women are pressed down by the culture of Ireland and the Church during this time and the men drink. Even when the men offer support as they did when Kate "escapes" (having been "kidnapped" by her father to save her (at age 21) because of her living with a still married man who has treated her pretty decently), these same men pursue he ...more
Megan
Sep 23, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
I tried to make it through this, I really did. I even made it to the third book. I got a little excited when I thought Baba was going to narrate, but when it went back to Kathleen, I was just DONE. Don't get me wrong, Baba is just as despicable as Kathleen, but for different reasons. I might have finished then. But no. We go back to Kathleen's drivel. She is a spineless, whiny, reprehensible person, her family is awful, her boyfriends are awful; ugh, I just could take no more. I gave it two star ...more
gwen g
Nov 14, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up after reading an interview with Edna O'Brien, who's still alive and well and writing in London. These were her first three books, and they were beautiful and depressing and full of longing and irony.
Daisy
Conor said he wouldn't read her because she's so dark.

The following quotes are ones I underlined because I liked them, not that they necessarily stand for important parts of the story.
"Have a sweet, Cynthia?" Baba said, opening Una's chocolates, but Una didn't mind.

He had no insight into the small irritations that could drive people mad.

It was exactly the voice one would expect from an old, dead woman. It was high and hoarse and croaking.

I was lonely with him then, because he had not understood
...more
Christopher Allen
Lots of people have chimed in on this classic, so I won't bore you. O'Brien manages two distinct voices in this trilogy. The third book is of course a bit of a surprise--but a good one.

I think the genius of Country Girls is O'Brien's ability to give an innocent girl so much insight, so much vulnerability. She gives Caithleen so much understanding of the natural world while keeping her trembling at every human contact.

Baba is the opposite: all mouth and no conscience. And it's a beautiful relat
...more
Martha
Feb 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read Wild Decembers and my review is a bit condescending. Who was I to do that? O'Brien's story as a writer is an extraordinary one! Read about her. Read her books.

In this the delight is in the details " I turned them upside down before putting them on, because once I found a dead mouse in a Wellington. Some corn seeds dropped out of them." "My father got his overcoat then and came into the kitchen with his shoelaces slapping around". "He had come in the blue van which he used to take greyhoun
...more
Heather Linville
I didn't enjoy reading this book as the characters are very hard to like. But I did keep reading to the end, somehow captivated by their messed-up lives. The writing is stilted in places and wonderfully descriptive in others. I wonder how anyone survived Ireland at that time after reading this book.
Dem
Mar 29, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub-reads
This was a bookclub read, I liked the book however found it a bit far fetched. This book was banned in Ireland and therefore always had a bit of a mysterious edge to it, its an interesting story and a very good discussion book as it throws up lots topics that get people talking. Glad I read it.
Jacqueline Masumian
I would have given this trilogy five stars, but the third novel and the epilogue left me cold. This third novel, ironically titled Girls in their Married Bliss features (strangely) alternating chapters told in different points of view, and the lyrical writing of the first two novels is lost, as are the vulnerability of the two girls.

While this book is supposed to be about two female friends, at times they seem to be hardly friends at all, which is disturbing.

Very excellent writing and characters
...more
Terry Clague
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The mind pretends to forgive, but it harbors and remembers in moments of blackness."

Beautifully written and observed odyssey - a taxonomy of heartbreak that reminded me of an apparently misremembered Dostoyevsky line about eternity in a square foot of space.
Vivian Valvano
Feb 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had to reread THE COUNTRY GIRLS for my Night Owls group, so I took the opportunity to reread the entire trilogy along with the Epilogue (which was also included in the edition I read). Rereading after many years and so much more experience with Ireland and Irish literature and history was a wonderful experience. O'Brien shocked Ireland with THE COUNTRY GIRLS (1960), and serious readers are forever in her debt. Rereading Caithleen Brady's first-person narrative means knowing what will happen, y ...more
Kathleen
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Had you asked me, I would have said I already read these three book and epilogue...but I hadn't. I must have started and then put it down years ago. It is a story of two women coming of age in post WWII Ireland. I had to actually stop reading at one point and prove to myself that this was the time period because it might as well have been Ireland in the early 20th century so difficult were the strictures put on these growing girls. As in RESERVATION ROAD, a present day reader may simply not be a ...more
Jenny
Jul 12, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
That's cool, by the end it told their whole life stories. I was struck by how even though it felt like I was in-depth into the happenings, things kept progressing forward through the years, and they were growing up as I read. I definitely resonated more with Kate, and Baba was tough to handle, especially when they were younger. I had some strong reactions to both of their characters, and the choices they made. At first I was thrown off when the narrator changed, but by the end it was neat to get ...more
Venessa
Sep 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Cherie
I am in love with Edna O’Brien after reading these books and now want to devour everything I can find by her – in time. All three books follow the friendship of Kate and Baba; both girls come from the same small town in Ireland but both follow distinctly different paths, while seemingly following the same. Kate is nervous and melancholy, a follower; Baba is confident, outspoken, and a born leader. The Country Girls and The Lonely Girl are told in first person POV by Kate; Girls in Their Married ...more
Janis
Oct 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Debuting separately in the early 1960’s and later released as The Country Girls Trilogy and Epilogue (1986), the novels were considered provocative to the point of being banned in Ireland. Fifty plus years later, the saga of Kate and Baba has a timeless feel and the beauty of the language remains intact.

Growing up on many acres but little wealth, Kate endures an alcoholic father, a victimized mother, and a religious patriarchy incapable of understanding the damage done. Despite her intellectual
...more
Cherie
Nov 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Pomsey
Shelves: fiction, oneofmyfaves
I really liked this book. It's the kind of book a millennial, like myself can read, but discuss with her mother, or eve grandmother. The different generations will find it appealing for different reasons. There are family stories; love stories; coming-of-age stories; finding one's self stories; marriage stories; children stories; divorce stories.

This book follows two girls from their childhood into adulthood. They are originally country girls, and as their lives take them from their sheltered f
...more
Jennifer Seyfried
This may have been groundbreaking and shocking in it's time, but I had a hard time getting through it. It was a very real story, two girls leaving their country town and going to school and then to the big city, very relatable. But also very depressing, at least to me. Of course some bad things happen to them, but nothing that really rises to the level of tragedy, just ordinary life low points is how I would describe them. The same for the high points. This is life not as a roller coaster thrill ...more
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Constant Reader Classics Corner 27 47 Aug 11, 2008 06:30PM  

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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

Other books in the series

The Country Girls Trilogy (4 books)
  • The Country Girls (The Country Girls Trilogy, #1)
  • Girl with Green Eyes (The Country Girls Trilogy, #2)
  • Girls in Their Married Bliss (The Country Girls Trilogy, #3)
“Life, after all, was a secret with the self. The more one gave out, the less there remained for the center--that center which she coveted for herself and recognized instantly in others. Fruits had it, the very heart of, say, a cherry, where the true worth and flavor lay. Some of course were flawed or hollow in there. Many, in fact. ” 6 likes
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