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Meet Kate and Baba, two young Irish country girls who have spent their childhood together. As they leave the safety of their convent school in search of life and love in the big city, they struggle to maintain their somewhat tumultuous relationship. Kate, dreamy and romantic, yearns for true love, while Baba just wants to experience the life of a single girl. Although they set out to conquer the world together, as their lives take unexpected turns, Kate and Baba must ultimately learn to find their own way.

175 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1960

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About the author

Edna O'Brien

106 books1,077 followers
Edna O’Brien is 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 Medal from University College Dublin, and a lifetime achievement award from the Irish Literary Academy. Her 1960 debut novel, The Country Girl, was banned in her native Ireland for its groundbreaking depictions of female sexuality. Notable works also include August Is a Wicked Month (1965), A Pagan Place (1970), Lantern Slides (1990), and The Light of Evening (2006). O’Brien lives in London.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 666 reviews
Profile Image for Robin.
493 reviews2,720 followers
February 27, 2021
A healing balm, this book is, for a reader who's been sort of lost in the "depths" of contemporary fiction recently. Books that are about something, that's clear, but exactly what that is, isn't. Or the 'what' is clear but the writing is mud.

The last month of my reading life was sloggish, I'm not going to lie. Then I picked up this book.

The Country Girls doesn't require deep analysis or brilliant deductions on the part of the reader. No, this short debut novel does all the work for you. It picks you up and transports you to 1950s Ireland, into the life and mind of 14 year old Kaithleen Brady. It tells you a story you're only too happy to drop into, with heart and humour.

This slice of life is lyrically told, and invites us into Kait's troubled country home. It delves into her friendship with Baba (Bridget) which is often more of a "frenemy" relationship, and which brings to mind Elena Ferrante's two main characters from the Neapolitan series. It follows her into school at a convent, and then eventually a move to the big city, Dublin.

This delightful Bildungsroman caused a big stir when it was published, for being on the bawdy side (in fact, it was banned in Ireland and publicly burned by a priest, for goodness' sake). It will likely seem pretty tame to most modern readers, but it is a bit shocking that the mysterious Mr Gentleman (who is married and has grey hair) takes such an interest in 14 year old Kaithleen.

By the way, I absolutely loved how O'Brien manages to create a character out of... a name. "Mr Gentleman" - so called because the Irish community cannot for the life of them pronounce his actual French surname, de Maurier - both inhabits and repulses our connotations of the word gentleman.

My first time reading O'Brien, I'm amazed to learn that this book was written in THREE WEEKS, and marvel at her ability to give voice to the female experience in this time and place, especially with such honesty. She makes no excuses for Baba or Kait as they blunder through adolescence. They are who they are - and I can't wait to spend more time with these two, just as they are.

This is book one of a trilogy, and it ends sort of abruptly, leaving me a bit bereft. I will have to find out what happens next, and what a pleasure that will be!
Profile Image for Orsodimondo (away on an island).
2,189 reviews1,812 followers
January 20, 2021

Un libro importante: sessant’anni dopo lo si cita e se ne parla, e per fortuna lo si legge anche. Credo lo si possa ormai considerare un classico.
Era un esordio. Di una trentenne dagli occhi verdi. Che poi ha continuato a scrivere, a inanellare bei libri e successo: ora è scrittrice del pantheon. Edna O’Brien.
Applausi a Feltrinelli che seppe intuire subito, e prima di tutti, cogliere l’attimo: Country Girls uscì nel 1960 in lingua inglese, l’anno dopo uscì in italiano questo Ragazze di campagna.

Si tratta del primo di una trilogia, che prosegue con La ragazza dagli occhi verdi e si conclude con Ragazze nella felicità coniugale.

È la storia di due amiche geniali, Caithleen, detta Cait, e Baba, che crescono nella cattolicissima, quindi retrograda, repressiva, violenta Irlanda (gli scandali vengono fuori sempre più spesso, e preti e suore sono più che spesso coinvolti).
La campagna, le fattorie, generalmente in stato di decadenza, pelle pallida e capelli rossi, padri ubriaconi facili ad alzare le mani in famiglia (l’alcol va per la maggiore), madri rassegnate triste esempio (che finiscono con morire sempre troppo presto), il gioco d’azzardo, la religione, il convento di suore, il puritanesimo, la morale bigotta soffocante… Non manca nulla dell’immagine più classica di questo piccolo paese.

Le nostre due ‘brave ragazze’ sono diverse: Cait è dolce e romantica e ingenua, Baba è più disinvolta e pragmatica e trasgressiva. Ma sono perfettamente d’accordo nel voler rivendicare i loro diritti, nel loro forte desiderio di voler evadere da quel posto e da quella realtà, nel volersi esprimere, vivere i sentimenti, discutere e praticare ciò che intorno a loro viene considerato tabù, liberarsi del collegio e delle suore e delle loro famiglie retrograde ferme ad un’altra epoca, conquistare la libertà.
E così riescono a farsi espellere dalle suore e ad approdare a Dublino. Alla conquista del mondo:
Eravamo giovani e belle, o almeno eravamo convinte di esserlo.

Le luci della città, le “mille luci” di Babilonia, non riservano esattamente per le due ragazze di campagna la realizzazione immediata dei loro sogni di emancipazione: ci saranno dure prove, momenti difficili. Non sempre potranno restare vicine.
Ma saranno comunque e finalmente libere.
O’Brien m’ha regalato amarezza tristezza ironia e commozione, m’ha trasmesso i fermenti che stavano esplodendo nell’altra capitale, Londra, ma che in qualche modo anche Dublino conosceva. E io non sono affatto d’accordo con chi trova il questa bella storia di formazione datata, ormai inchiodata a quell’epoca: per me non è né superato né vecchio.

Ah, per la cronaca: in Irlanda il romanzo alla sua uscita fu messo all’indice bruciato davanti alle chiese.
Fortunatamente Edna O’Brien si era già trasferita a Londra e poteva mandare irriverenti allegre linguacce ai bifolchi bigotti di casa.

Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,214 reviews9,885 followers
December 14, 2020
Revived review in celebration of Edna O'Brien's 90th birthday which is tomorrow, 15th December. She hasn't retired yet!


Here is a beautiful probably-autobiographical wee slip of a novel which reads more like a memoir about two Irish girls between the ages of 14 and 18 in which nothing much happens except ordinary poor country life stuff, the girls being bored witless and trying to grow up, the girls being righteously disgusted about what's on offer in the back of the Irish beyond in the early 50s before Elvis and rock & roll rewrote the rules, the girls putting up with drunk parents, bitter adults and useless boys. Caithleen and Baba (Bridget really), with Caithleen the narrator perpetually told she's a right looking eedjit by Baba, who always knows what to do and who with, or thinks she does, and can't wait to be expelled from the convent school they get sent to.

Baba on the convent school :

"Jesus, tis hell. I won't stick it for a week. I'll drink Lysol or any damn thing to get out of here. I'd rather be a Protestant."

Caithleen on the convent school food :

"Caithleen Brady, why don't you eat your cabbage?" said Sister Margaret.
"There's a fly in it, Sister," I said. It was a slug really, but I didn't like to hurt her feelings.

Later that same meal :

My meat was brutal-looking and it had a faint smell as if it had gone off. I sniffed it again and knew that I couldn't eat it.

(The girls all surreptitiously smuggle the grisly meat out of the school wrapped in handkerchiefs. They dump it in the local duck pond when they go on their prescribed walk.)

The following sums up Caithleen and Baba's relationship :

"Can you post eggs to England?" I asked Baba.
"Of course you can post eggs to England if you want the postman to deliver a box of sop and mush with egg white running up his sleeve. If you want to be a moron you can post eggs to England but they'll turn into chickens on the way."

The other main relationship in this novel is one which provides a curious and interesting comment on the great discussion we had here on Goodreads in Spring this year about Lolita. When Caithleen is 14 years old she begins a kind-of affair with a married man. He's a family friend, age not given but he has grey hair, he is clearly besotted with her and she him. They do nothing but meet occasionally and kiss. This goes on for some years. There's no hint anywhere of him being morally wrong in any way until other people find out. Up to that point it's presented as a sweet sweet romance. The Country Girls was published five years after Lolita.

Being a country girl, Caithleen almost without realising it is in love with nature, it bubbles up all the time. Here is a lovely example :

There was a man mowing the Brennan's front lawn when we got out of the car. It was a cold sunny day and over under the rhododendron shrub there were crocuses in bloom. Yellow-ochre crocuses. The wind had got inside some of them and the petals had fallen down on the grass. they looked like pieces of crepe paper just thrown there. There were primroses too. A cluster of them round the root of the sycamore tree. They cut the tree because they were afraid it would fall on the house in a big wind. Mr Brennan had grown ivy round the root and had trailed it across the ugly brown stump and now there were primroses, merry little primroses, shooting up through the ivy. I had been looking at primrose leaves for seventeen years and I had never noticed before that their leaves were hairy and old and wrinkled. i kept looking at them. Always on the brink of trouble I look at something, like a tree or a flower or an old shoe, to keep me from palpitating. "Chrisake, go in," said Baba.

Further comment is superfluous.
Profile Image for JimZ.
1,061 reviews496 followers
September 11, 2021
At times while reading this I was thinking “If I could give 10 stars to this I would”. It was that good. To consider that this was written in 1960 is even more remarkable.

At one point I was laughing so hard I was crying. I can’t recall the last time that a book did that to me.

Baba was a hoot. What a bad-ass character.

I’m surprised this was a rather short book. In the Faber and Faber edition (the trilogy) it was only 223 pages.

I would have read this in one sitting if I had not had deadlines on my job to meet. It was that good! Sometimes I wonder when I come across books like this, and how long it has been available to read, where I have been all these years.

From what I can gather this book is semi-memoirish. Caithleen, the main character who is 14 years old at the beginning of the story, went to a convent school, and so did Edna O’Brien. Caithleen’s mother had briefly been to America, and so had O’Brien’s mother. Both fathers drank a lot and were violent. But Edna’s mother did not die when she was only a girl, as did Caithleen’s mother.

Edna O’Brien said she wrote this book in 3 weeks, which I find remarkable. She must have pulled an all-niter in there somewhere.

The narrator of the story is Caithleen growing up in rural Ireland – time period I think is 1920s-1930s.

So many things I liked about the book. Never a dull moment. It is wonderful prose. It’s not written with flowery sentences or with truly complex and wise thoughts…after all the girl is only 14 and comes from an impoverished environment.

Here’s the part that had me in stitches. Caithleen visits a man’s house — Jack Holland lives there with his very old mother.
• “Jack, I’m dying” the voice moaned. I jumped off the tea chest, but Jack put a hand on my shoulder and made me sit down again. “She’s just curious to know who’s here,” he said. He didn’t bother to whisper.
• “Jack, I’m dying,” the voice said again, and Jack swore hot-temperedly and ran into the kitchen. I followed him.
• “Good God Almighty, you’re on fire,” he shouted. There was a smell of something burning.
• “On fire,” she said, looking at him like a baby.
• “Goddam it, take your shoes out of the ashes,” he said. She had the toe of her black canvas shoe in the bed of ashes under the grate.
It’s probably one of those deals where you have to have been reading all the stuff preceding it that makes it “lol-cry-your-eyes-out-funny”. Oh, well….

And I don’t want to give the impression this is a book of humor. It has sad moments too. It’s a slice-of-life story of a girl growing up into womanhood in Ireland in the 1920s-1930s. The book was banned in Ireland when it came out…it was a huge hit elsewhere.

Profile Image for Guille.
781 reviews1,736 followers
December 29, 2019
Durante los primeros cuatro o cinco capítulos llegué a pensar si no sería una versión femenina de Tom Sawyer (Baba me parecía un personaje a medio camino entre Huck y Tom, Jack Holland me producía la misma repulsión que Willie Mufferson, el niño modelo al que todos odiaban en la historia de Twain, encontraba semejanzas entre el empleado que trabajaba en casa de Caithleen y Jim, el esclavo negro, y tampoco faltaba el padre borracho al que todos temían). Más adelante, por momentos, el tono me recordó al de Las cenizas de Ángela, ya saben, eso de contar miserias y atrocidades con sencillez, naturalidad y un cierto tono melancólico. Pero carecía del humor y la ironía de la obra de McCourt.

Estoy seguro de que Philip Roth, Alice Munro, John Berger o Kingsley Amis saben de esto mucho más que yo y doy por supuesto que han leído muchas más obras de esta autora que un servidor, pero no he encontrado en esta novela nada más que una novela juvenil bien escrita y yo estoy ya muy mayor para casi todas las novelas juveniles.
Profile Image for Luís.
1,939 reviews602 followers
January 13, 2023
In her memoirs, Edna O'Brien recounts a life mainly devoted to writing, the journey of a Country Girl, a free and independent woman who did not give in to the pressure of a conservative society, taking the risk of being ostracised.

Edna O'Brien's desire to become a writer began when she was very young and lived in an Irish village with many drinking establishments and not a single library. If the men are not particularly pious, the women pray fervently; she talks about the country's bigotry, ignorance, and poverty. After studying pharmacy in Dublin, Edna, who still hopes to be "admitted into the world of letters," becomes a columnist for a women's newspaper. At this time, she met her future husband (they would have two sons and quarreled over custody during their divorce a few years later) and wrote her first novel, Country Girls. This book caused a scandal and made her husband jealous, but it marked the beginning of his literary success and openness to the world.

An opening materialized by meeting many famous men, intellectuals, actors, and politicians. "Lovers or brothers," to use her expression, of which Edna describes at length (a little too much) the facts and gestures in these memoirs not devoid of lyricism, humor, and sensitivity, illuminating testimony of Irish intellectual life (and English ) over the past five decades. As a privileged observer of her country's social and political life, Edna evokes, among other things, the IRA and the war with the English that she describes as "between carnage and counter-carnage" and an Ireland under the domination of her country, a ubiquitous Catholic Church. (and tainted: the Ryan and Murphy report will denounce, much later, the acts of which certain religions are guilty towards children). An uncompromising vision of her country, Edna O'Brien recalls that he has also produced immense authors, such as James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and Oscar Wilde, to name but a few.
Profile Image for Nandakishore Mridula.
1,255 reviews2,296 followers
December 5, 2018
Warning: Possible spoilers. Though I don't think they will spoil the reading experience, if you are one of those people who wants to dive into a book without knowing anything of the story, it might be better to avoid this review.

Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.

This quote is taken from Frank McCourt’s memoir Angela's Ashes, but it is equally apt for this novel by Edna O’Brien.

If we look at Ireland in the first half of the Twentieth Century, three things immediately jump out at you: crippling poverty, intense religiosity and totally dysfunctional families. The family of Caithleen Brady, the first person narrator, is no different – with a violent drunkard father who is largely absent, a long-suffering mother, and a farm that is slowly being run into the ground. In this dismal universe, her only solace is her mother; and her friend, Brigitte (“Baba”) Brennan (though she turns out to be toxic and narcissistic).

Caithleen’s world is turned upside down when her mother walks out on her father, to stay with her aunt – and is subsequently drowned. To make matters worse, the family house is lost to mortgage, and she is forced to stay with Baba’s family. Soon, the girls go on to a convent for higher studies; Caithleen on a scholarship and Baba on her parent’s money. They ultimately end up in Dublin with its colourful nights of dance, drink, fun and fornication – and a coming-of-age with its attendant pains and brutal heartbreak.


O’Brien’s prose is spare, and the viewpoint of an adolescent (who is naive and mature in equal measure) is maintained throughout. This makes it an easy read. But that in no way means it is simplistic. The author has the extraordinary ability to sketch with a few deft strokes. For example, this is what Caithleen has to say about her mother:

...In her brown dress she looked sad, the farther I went the sadder she looked. Like a sparrow in the snow, brown and anxious and lonesome. It was hard to think that she got married one sunny morning in a lace dress and a floppy buttercup hat, and that her eyes were moist with pleasure when now they were watery with tears.

Compare this with Martha, Baba’s mother:

Martha was what the villagers called fast. Most nights she went down to the Greyhound Hotel, dressed in a tight black suit with nothing under the jacket only a brassiere, and with a chiffon scarf knotted at her throat. Strangers and commercial travellers admired her. Pale face, painted nails, blue-black pile of hair, Madonna face, perched on a high stool in the lounge bar of the Greyhound Hotel, they thought she looked sad. But Martha was not ever sad, unless being bored is a form of sadness. She wanted two things from life and she got them – drink and admiration.

The contrasting mothers also point to one of the great dichotomies of the Irish culture: Christian Puritanism at one extreme, and sexual sleaze at the other. The protagonist is pulled in both directions, symbolised by the claustrophobically restrictive environment of the convent and the gaudy night life of Dublin respectively.

Baba is the classic example of a toxic personality. Not having even one-tenth of the personal capabilities of her friend, she enjoys in putting her friend down at all possible occasions, playing on her inferiority complex of being poor. Yet Caithleen cannot break free of her: as Baba’s father says, she has always been her ‘tool’. But reality is much more nuanced, of course – Baba is the unreachable ideal of glamour Caithleen aspires to: at the same time, she can sense the vulnerability in her, which makes the relationship a mutually essential (albeit negative) one. For when it ends on a semi-tragic note, it’s a rite of passage for her.

I waved to the car and she waved back. Her thin white fingers behind the glass waved to the end of our friendship. She was gone. It would never be the same again, even if we tried.

The second rite of passage for the protagonist concerns her relationship with a middle-aged dandy we can immediately identify as a Casanova and a possible paedophile, ironically called ‘Mr. Gentleman’ by all and sundry. This blackguard is a Frenchman settled in Ireland, who by the dint of his affluence and gentlemanly behaviour holds the society in thrall – and for Caithleen, he is another mirage which she thirsts after. And when this too collapses, the heroine has passed her final threshold, from girlhood to womanhood.


After I read this novel, I did some research on the author. It seems that this is her first novel, and semi-autobiographical in nature. It was considered scandalous at the time it was published (1960) for its sexual explicitness, and there were public book burnings authorised by the Catholic clergy! The author and her family were ostracised by the Church and society, which resulted in Edna moving out of Ireland. Bully for her! It seems she was one of the very early feminists.
Profile Image for Mark  Porton.
416 reviews367 followers
July 9, 2021
Oh yeah it was alright.

The good thing about this story was the writing, it was so, so good - easy and nice to read. A bit like Wendell Berry in some ways.

But, for me. This reader. I just didn't like the story. I did at the beginning, but this piece about a young Irish girl and her friends and anti-friends was something I found a bit tedious the more it progressed.

Girls, growing up, having crushes on men and bickering. Not for me.

3 Stars
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 1 book557 followers
November 18, 2022
The Country Girls is the first installment in the Country Girls Trilogy by Edna O’Brien. As is typical with trilogies, this novel would feel somewhat incomplete if the ending were the actual end of the story. As it is, this first installment was captivating and I picked up the second immediately and began the continuation of the story.

Set in 1950’s Ireland, we meet Caithleen Brady and Baba Brennan, two 14 year olds setting out to explore the world. We follow them through a couple of early traumas, convent boarding school, and into a life alone in the big city of Dublin. Baba is a very racy young lady, who seems often to invite trouble; Caith is a naive girl who is easy prey for the charming, and callous, Mr. Gentleman.

The character of Mr. Gentleman is a particularly stunning study of the mores and class divides of the time and the manner in which women are judged for sexuality vs. men. He is a wealthy married man, and his inappropriate attention to such a young girl made my skin crawl, but at the same time I understood the allure he would have had for a girl of much lower standing, who wants for both appropriate affection and material security. What I found particularly interesting were the reactions of other adults to Mr. Gentleman, and the way in which no one questioned his behavior from the beginning.

I can imagine Edna O’Brien was pretty shocking to the Ireland of her time. The picture she draws seems starkly realistic to me and exposes the repressed attitudes of the church for the ineffective and often harmful stance they took on young women’s sexual feelings. In fact, the lack of understanding of these girls as young women with curiosity and desires seems almost to push them toward a dangerous path.

O’Brien’s writing is fluid and precise. The story flows effortlessly and the characters stir exactly the emotions I believe O’Brien wishes her readers to feel. I am looking forward to the rest of the story, and hoping Caith, and even the very difficult to like, Baba, will become wiser as they mature.
Profile Image for Laura .
376 reviews152 followers
November 6, 2022
This is a re-read, so for me the interesting element of reading it this time round were the changes in my perspective. I first read 'The Country Girls' when I was in school probably around 14, the same age as our narrator Caithleen/Cait. And I re-read the three-part trilogy maybe 10 years ago when I found a second-hand copy, and then I re-read volume three - 'Girls in Their Married Bliss', because I found an edition with the epilogue, which I believe was not part of the original third book. I remember being deeply saddened by the third part, and there is possibly a continuation of Cait's story in 'Time and Tide', published 1990. Nell, a girl with green eyes, makes her way to London, following an acrimonious divorce and settles there with her two young sons.

Anyway, what struck me in this reading was that I remembered particular scenes in connection with how I had felt, in other words a strong emotional response in my earlier reading brought the details back very quickly, but in this reading my response was quite different. For example, in the chapters where Baba is intent on getting herself and Cait expelled from the convent, I clearly remembered Cait's anxiety about the punishments they would receive, and the reactions of the other girls and nuns, who scorned them as they were leaving, refusing to even look at them. I also felt the danger of rebelling in this way against the authority of the nuns - the humiliation Cait would feel in being judged. Baba is way too thick-skinned to care too much and she's not an 'A' student like Cait - that was my previous reaction.

In this reading, however, I just thought - yes! The stupidity, the backwardness of this type of religious upbringing, and the rigid, inflexible rules and conformative behaviour demanded by the nuns deserved exactly this type of rebellion. I felt like Baba, only I'm now 55 years old reading this and feeling the same intense dislike that Baba shows. I really feel now that the nuns, the convent, the whole religious order and beyond, got exactly what it deserved: Baba's defiant rejection. It's an interesting story for me, because my mother was sent to a convent where she was 'educated' by nuns. I can't help thinking that the pious and sanctimonious rules of the Catholic religion must have affected my mother's upbringing - and has probably to some extent informed my character also.

To return to the book. I suspect O'Brien's characters of Baba and Cait are in fact expressions of herself despite their clear differences. Cait is the calm exterior; but O'Brien's thoughts are seen in the rebellious, outspoken, gutsy Baba, who does what she wants. O'Brien's first book is written with the intent to expose the extremely narrow teachings of the Church especially in relation to 'boys, sex and things' as Cait puts it. And more generally the restrictive morals imposed on women in sexual relationships.

When I read the story at 14, I was barely aware of the instructive side to O'Brien's writing, I simply loved all the gossipy, juicy details of the girls' experiences, in the convent and then later when they arrive in Dublin. Poor Cait, although she has a scholarship and could have completed her secondary education, she chooses to go with Baba to Dublin and works in a grocery shop. Baba's family have money, and they can afford to send her to college, although it's doubtful if Baba actually attended any lectures.

The story ends with Cait waiting for Mr Gentleman to whisk her away on a romantic holiday to Vienna, but predictably, he is still firmly married.

The copyright in my Penguin edition says 1960. O'Brien was born in 1930, so I am guessing that she wrote 'The Country Girls' in retrospect from the age of 30 looking back at her earlier life. The trilogy is highly autobiographical, but its importance is in the outspoken nature of the girls' attitude to their experiences of growing up in Ireland. All three books were banned as they were published in 1960, 1962 and 1964; banned that is by the Irish Censorship Board. As Wikipedia states, however: "The Country Girls, both trilogy and the novel, is often credited with breaking silence on sexual matters and social issues during a repressive period in Ireland following World War II . . ."

The three novels were re-released in 1986 in a single volume. Although we now have access to all of her books, it must have hurt O'Brien in her writing career and caused great personal distress to be blocked with her first three books. I can only say, make sure you read this - it's a classic of 20th century literature.
Profile Image for Eric Anderson.
686 reviews3,383 followers
July 19, 2022
It's exciting reading such an influential book for the first time, but it's also a curious experience since radical elements of the story can already feel familiar. I've read a good amount of recent Irish fiction. So a novel about an Irish girl coming of age, experiencing the oppressive forces of the patriarchy/conservative religion, moving from the country to an independent life in the city and engaging in a romantic relationship with an older man doesn't feel that revolutionary now. But, at the time of its initial publication in 1960, the story presented in “The Country Girls” stirred a lot of controversy as it was condemned by some politicians and religious leaders who even went to the extreme of burning copies of the book.

I can only admire how Edna O'Brien broke boundaries at the time to represent young female experience in her protagonist of Caithleen “Cait” Brady. It's arrestingly portrayed how she must live with a father prone to violent alcohol-fuelled outbursts and amongst a community of men who expect kisses (or more) in exchange for favours. Though her academic prowess earns her a promising scholarship to a convent school she discovers she must contend with mean-spirited nuns and stomach-turning meals (stringy meat and sodden cabbage). Caithleen also develops a romantic infatuation with a figure nicknamed Mr. Gentleman who is married and grooms her for a future affair from the age of fourteen. Together with her longtime friend (frenemy) Bridget “Baba” she moves to Dublin to live for the first time as independent young women. These experiences are vividly conveyed throughly sharply-rendered details and emotional descriptions. So, even if such a storyline may no longer feel entirely new, it remains an utterly captivating tale that's brilliantly written.

Read my full review of The Country Girls by Edna O'Brien at LonesomeReader
Profile Image for Matt.
1,034 reviews667 followers
October 30, 2011

At first, I didn't think very much of The Country Girls. It's sort of your standard coming of age story, the locus here being female and Irish and from a rural, rather down-at-hell background.

O'Brien, who admittedly wrote under the inspiration of Dubliners, said herself that the novel came almost as if unbidden. She said something to the effect that her hand wrote it, she just guided the pen. Very interesting not only to hear this, which has to indicate something really important and personal and special about the writing of this book, what it means for her, but also how this was motivated by her *finally* leaving the old sow that eats her farrow and being excited, happy, full, just having GOTTEN OUT. You'd think if you read Joyce that this was more about Romantic urgins and the whims of innovative geniuses but evidently the desire to escape the smothering, swarthy, pious, repressive, and physically looming presence of the emerald isle isn't limited to emotional neurotics with poetic dreams.

It's interesting to see how the main character, Cait, comes into her own slowly but surely. O'Brien's sentences are brief (I read the thing in a day) and cut to the quick, yet contain enough suppleness to move what builds into a pretty dramatic story. It's the first of a trilogy and my teacher warned us that once we've finished it we would be itching to see what happens next. It's true. It's somewhat of a cliffhanger, and a bit of a scary, somewhat creepy one at that.

Throughout the story you get Cait and her best frenemy Baba interacting through adolescence the way any couple of (pre) teenagers do, with not much to recommend home and grisly, three-toothed creepers just waiting for the right time to make a proposal you can't refuse. And the scholarships are rare but, if won, they bring you to a convent which is like something out of Jane Eyre, if not Dickens or some of Orwell's reminiscience of his school days. And then, of course, you've got to flee again.

As you read it you really are made aware of the growing self-awareness of the characters, in this case predominantly female, as they come to see their country (De Valera's sentimental, domestic, rural, humble, stifling Irish wholesomeness) their families (drunk dads, cows pissing in the fields, burly good natured idiot farmhands, aforementioned pervy neighbors with too much time on their hands and too little to do that isn't pissing off to the pubs, growling at livestock, and bemoaning the vicissitudes of fate) and their bodies (a little too skinny, wine is bitter, what tortures women inflict on each other, particularly when there isn't much of anyone else to talk to! Baba I enjoyed reading about but would NOT like to meet in person- sex and the single girl is all fine with me, but the kind of spiteful jealousy and emotional taunting which goes on is not my ball of wax- much less Cait's).

The lights of Dublin are bright, quicksilver, people going places in hurried, expensive groups...there are always a couple of middle aged swells ready to pick up where the pervy uncles and opportunistic neighbors left off.

Sometimes when people relate the bare, unadorned facts of their lives in mediums not unto life itself, it's a small miracle that they seem to have survived at all. O'Brien writes with a brisk, observant frankness which renders the rather drab circumstances of her Cait's life into something engaging, engrossing, energetic, and vivid.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
Author 1 book164 followers
January 24, 2020
“There were birds singing in the convent trees as we crossed the tarmac driveway to the chapel. The birds reminded us both of the same thing. Home wasn’t such a bad place, after all.”

This story, set in 1950’s rural Ireland, tells of friendship and family, of Catholic repression and developing sexuality. I liked it so much, and can give three reasons why.

First, the character of Caithleen. She is compelling, initially for her awkwardness, then for the tragedies that befall her, but mostly because her personality is developing and we get to see that happen.

Next, for the depiction of life in Ireland for those of humble means. It’s a way of life similar to what I remember hearing about from my parents when talking of their childhoods in the American Midwest. They told of simple pleasures amid the back-breaking work of farming and the constant worrying about survival and whether you “would be able to keep the place.” They told how some people carried all the weight on their shoulders, while others, the ne’er-do-wells, “brought shame on the family name.” Oh, and there was the other category of folks, the ones who “got out,” who dressed up one day in their Sunday best and went off to the city and never came back. These are such familiar stories to me, of a time that was so different than the time we live in now, and I loved revisiting them in The Country Girls.

Last and most important, I thoroughly enjoyed the writing style. Short, simple sentences describing just what you need to know to carry the story forward, and no more. Yet the details included! Each situation we meet with Caithleen is brought to life by evocative descriptions like this that put you right in the scene:

“The windows of the drapery shops were dressed for Christmas with holly and Christmas stockings and shreds of tinsel. I couldn’t see them very well with my flashlight but inside in the shops there were countrywomen buying boots and vests and calico. I looked in the doorway of O’Brien’s drapery and saw Mrs. O’Brien, under the lamplight, measuring curtain material. There was a country man sitting on a chair fitting on a pair of boots, and his wife was feeling the leather with her hands and searching to see if his toe came to the very tip of the boot.”

The Country Girls is the first of a trilogy, and while you could say her girlhood ends in this one, I will definitely read on to the next chapters in Caithleen’s path to maturity.
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,920 reviews386 followers
May 18, 2018
I have absolutely no idea how to rate this book. Can I say that I enjoyed it? Yes and no. Can I say that I appreciated it? Yes indeed.

It was an important book for its time—published in 1960 and showing an Ireland that doesn’t exist anymore. One where the Catholic Church and patriarchy reigned supreme and women had extremely limited choices. You could get married or become a nun. That was pretty much it, at least for the country girls. Women weren’t admitted to be sexual beings and weren’t supposed to criticize how their society worked.

Edna O’Brien writes beautifully about the naiveté of the two rural girls when they come to the big city. Kate is the artistic, romantic, intellectual girl who has idealistic visions of what life should be like. She wants to discuss literature with her dates and they only value her sexuality. She becomes involved with an older married man from her village because he offers a window into the more sophisticated world that Kate longs for. Baba, on the other hand, is far more earthy—she wants to smoke, drink, and enjoy the company of men. The two women couldn’t be more different from one another, but small communities make for strange friendships. With few people of the right age to choose from, you bond with the most compatible person available and these relationships rarely withstand leaving home.

The poverty, the alcohol problems, the repression of women--The Country Girls reveals them all. No wonder this book was denounced and banned. It was hanging out the dirty linen for the world to look at.

Ireland is a country that is definitely on my “to visit” list. I love reading books which are set there and I will definitely read more of O’Brien’s work.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,780 reviews1,459 followers
September 8, 2015
I like Edna O'Brien's writing, lyrical is the perfect word to describe it. Good dialogs. Her characters become distinct.

The plot left me cold. Totally boring. Not only do you need good writing you need an interesting story for a novel to work. We follow two girls, Caithleen and Baba, 14 years of age when the book opens. Two country girls, as the title so aptly indicates. The setting is western Ireland, outside Limerick, the 1960s. This is a coming of age story, about friendship and blossoming interest in the opposite sex. The two girls leave home, go to a horrible convent, escape and move to Dublin. I just cannot make this sound more interesting than it was. Their friendship is conflicted; they both depend on each other and quarrel.

The only part of the plot I enjoyed was the beginning. There is the classic Irish problem of a father that drinks. I felt Caithleen's fear of her father. This was palpable and really well written. On the other hand I didn't understand her strong devotion toward her mother. I don’t even think the friendship between the girls was that well portrayed.

The author narrates her own book. I did feel the emotions she wanted to portray, but the whole feel is dreary, tragic and despondent. This doesn't fit the lines. The dialogs were a little bit better. No, the narration is not good.

I will not be continuing the trilogy.
Profile Image for Kuszma.
2,271 reviews170 followers
April 7, 2021
Ezeket a semmi kis történeteket nehéz ám megírni. Hisz mi ez? Búcsú leányságomtól – egy kis ír bagatell. Itt van Caithleen, aki a kelta falusi bukolikából eljut Dublinig, aztán ennyi. Nem számítsunk szédítő karrierre: amikor elbúcsúzunk tőle, eladólányként ügyeskedik valami incifinci boltocskában. Közben persze történik egy és más, amit a regényelmélet „konfliktusnak” nevez.Van például erőszakos, alkoholista apa, meg egy olyan barátnő, aki ellenségnek is kiválóan megfelelne, ja, és persze némi szerelem. Nyiladozik a libidó, na. De igazából semmi olyan, amire felkapná az ember a fejét – egy élet, ennyi az egész. Nem könnyű élet, de csupán élet. Az ilyen történeteket csak úgy lehet eladni, ha különösen jól vannak megírva. O'Briannek sikerül. Érzékeny prózája botlás nélkül lavíroz a hangulatok között: a vidéki odőrt ugyanolyan átélhetőn ragadja meg, mint a zárdák arktiszi hidegét, egy barátság ambivalenciáját épp olyan finoman teszi papírra, mint a nővé érés sokszínű bizonytalanságait. Szeretem az ilyen szép, tiszta, szívvel és ésszel megteremtett tereket.
Profile Image for Vanessa Wu.
Author 18 books195 followers
August 22, 2011
I have been listening to Edna O'Brien read the unabridged version of this novel. It is quite short. She reads it in a state of holy awe, as if she is filled with wonder at the world. This very much suits the narrative, which tells of the unholy dramas that befall a fourteen-year-old Catholic girl in a little Irish town. It is told in unadorned, elegant English. There is a purity about it, which means you have to quieten your mind and let Edna's voice fill up your senses in order to appreciate it. You will then realise that it is a life-changing experience to ride in a car with a well-groomed man of middle age who thinks you are lovely; and that lifelong friendship can begin with the gift of a cake placed on your pillow. If you expect any more from life, or a book, than this, then you may well be disappointed. But if you enjoy the purity of simple language that caresses your ears and sharpens your senses, then prepare to be enthralled.
Profile Image for Andrea.
216 reviews106 followers
May 24, 2018

Creo que si algo caracteriza a Las chicas de campo es su sencillez y singularidad. Y casi diría que es una novela entrañable. Entrañable (a pesar de algún que otro momento tirando a crudo), melancólica por momentos... Es una novela que hay que leer poniéndose en todo momento (y sí o sí) en la piel de las protagonistas: Caithleen y Baba (demasiado fan soy yo de este personaje). ¿Por qué? Pues para hacerse una idea de la sociedad irlandesa de los años 50. Pues digamos que hoy en día algunos detalles (muy conservadores) que nos presenta Edna O'Brien no causan ese "escándalo" que podrían haber causado (y causaron) por aquel entonces. Y en verdad, no quiero decir mucho acerca de este libro. Creo que es una de esas historias que hay que ir descubriendo por uno mismo. (?) Cuanto menos sepas (siempre bajo mi punto de vista, claro) de ella, mejor. En lo que a mí respecta diré que me he enamorado perdidamente del retrato tan maravilloso que hace Edna de esa Irlanda rural y de esas noches dublinesas. Y bueno. A partir de aquí empieza mi andadura con esta fabulosa escritora.

Fuimos hacia el reino de las hadas de neón que era Dublín.
Profile Image for Leo.
4,380 reviews405 followers
December 5, 2021
I've got a soft spot for books set around 1900s revolving women/girls and their life and struggles. This one was set in 1960s and was as intriguing and filled with interesting moments and readable characters. Need to look if Edna O'Brian have written anything more after this. Have back in my !one that I've seen a book recently by Her.
Profile Image for K.D. Absolutely.
1,820 reviews
March 6, 2011
First published in 1960, this is the first novel of Ireland-born novelist Edna O'Brien (born 1930). This is also Book 1 of her trilogy called the same, The Country Girls Trilogy. The other books are entitled The Lonely Girl (1962) and Girls in Their Married Bliss (1964). After the publication of the third book, all of them were banned in the repressive Ireland in the 60's because of the frank portrayal of the sex lives of the characters. Well, there is nothing frank in the first book except that scene when one of the main characters, Caithleen likened limp penis to an orchid the first time she saw and touched one. But I guess that was Ireland, a devout Catholic country in the 60's and I know that they have lovely gardens and probably they didn't think that a penis is similar to an orchid.

Guess I should not read this book. Totally not within my reading comfort zone. This tells the story of two 14-y/o Irish girls who have gone to college in a convent run by nuns but they don't like it there so they write a malicious note regarding the wang of a priest that leads to their expulsion. So, they transfer to a college in Dublin and have an affair with dirty old men as they don't want young penniless men.

I started reading this yesterday morning while suffering from hangover from Friday night's drinking session with my two visitors from Columbus, Ohio. I was nursing a bad headache while trying to decipher what O'Brien (this is my first book by her) was saying in this book's first 50 pages. Things only shaped up when the characters are already in the convent and planning their expulsion.

I think it was not the fault of O'Brien that I did not like this novel. It was really probably because of my hangover. One thing that I appreciated though is the first-person narrator of a 14 to 18- y/o Irish girl and I think that O'Brien was so good she was able to capture what goes on inside that young character's head. Maybe young girls would probably see themselves here and like this more but not a 46-y/o man like me. I only read this because it is among the books included in the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Too shallow for me. Sorry.
Profile Image for Q.
448 reviews
January 2, 2022
I enjoyed this book a lot. Edna O’Brien is a really good story teller. And she’s gutsy. She’s has delved into the issues that restricted the choices of Irish women in the 20th century. In the 21st century she did the same with events harming women in other areas of the world. I greatly admire her for this and for her skill in doing so. And how her writing keeps growing.

Country Girls is a short book. It was EO’s first book published in 1960 and it was banned by the Catholic church in Ireland because that girls had sexuality. The church, who seemed to rule the state then, didn’t believe women had equality or the right to their expression of sexuality. Or to say NO!

The writing is fairly simple compared to her more recent books but quite lovely. The initial setting is rural west Ireland in the mid 20th century. There is naturalness of life there and within the daily routines. Caithleen has a dog she loves with a wonderful name that I’m forgetting. She and her mom are close. She has an innocence of youth and a sweetness in her character. She has a genuine kindness and people tend to like her; especially older men. Her and her friend Baba are on the verge of womanhood and their lives are changing.

Baba has a rebelliousness and bravado. She talks or bullies Caithleen into her wild schemes. And Caithleen usually goes along. But doesn’t tell Baba everything. Baba wants to go live in Dublin and meet guys and go dancing. She isn’t into school. It doesn’t come easy to her like Caithleen

This is a period piece. It creates a marvelous sense of place. It shows Caithleen’s roots and ties to the land and what shaped her. And what shaped Baba. Caithleen lives on a farm of many acres that’s been passed down to her alcoholic father. Baba lives in a large house near by. Her dad is a country vet.

Even though it’s a short book there’s a lot to the story. There’s time at a convent boarding school. Some time in Dublin too. I really liked the way it unfolded. I’m not going to tell more of the plot because it’s fun to read and find out what’s next.

I look forward to reading the other 2 books in the trilogy. Oh, I forgot to say our library had all three of trilogy books on audiobook read by none other then Edna O’Brien. It was like she knew Caithleen and Baba very well. It was a joy to hear her tell their story.

There are some really good GR reviews about CG’s. I just read a few of them. Some talk about the humor. Some more of the history of the book. Some tell about different pieces of the book they liked. In Robin’s wonderful review she used the word Bildungsroman. I had never heard the word before and it’s pitch perfect for this book

Bildungsroman - A novel tracing the spiritual, moral, psychological, or social development and growth of the main character, usually from childhood to maturity.

This book does just that.

Profile Image for Elizabeth Quinn.
Author 9 books12 followers
November 6, 2009
For the longest time, I didn't get Edna O'Brien. Her writing was so highly praised, but I couldn't figure out what all the fuss was about. Her characters were all so repressed and their interactions so brittle that I found her stories difficult to get into and generally boring. But as I embarked on my ongoing Irish tear, I was determined to try again. This time I had no trouble becoming interested in Kate and her childhood friend Baba or their lives in rural Ireland, in convent school and in Dublin. Ireland in the 1950s was extremely repressed, which is one reason this book was banned. But its portrait of a place and a people seems spot on. I think of this novel as a fictional twin of John McGahern's memoir All Will Be Well, which covers the same time period from a man's perspective. For Irish-Americans raised on sentimental songs and movies about the old sod, O'Brien's fiction is an important corrective. She is an excellent writer of spare but evocative prose. The Country Girls is the first novel of a trilogy, and I look forward to completing the set.
Profile Image for Babs.
93 reviews3 followers
September 7, 2011

I really, really enjoyed reading this book. I think the most delicious aspect of it is that O’Brien marries intimate and personal details of a girl’s early teenhood in the Irish countryside with the horribly dark realities of human existence. Furthermore, O’Brien does this very subtly. She describes the girl, Kaithleen, getting out of bed in the early mornings and seeing frost on the hedgerows outside, and skimming the cream off a bucket of milk to put in a glass bottle to take to a best friend’s birthday party. However, alongside this, Kaithleen, also has an alcoholic father, one who punches her underneath the jaw to make her teeth clack together. Kaithleen’s best friend is beautiful and dimpled, and Kaithleen follows her as besottedly as though a poster of Greta Garbo had come to life, yet what she tends to receive in response from Baba is, “Be off, trash”. Early on, Kaithleen’s mother drowns in a lake, trying to escape from her alcoholic husband; which forces the young girl to live with Baba and her family. Scenes of realistic eccentricity light up the novel, such as the mother of the Kaithleen’s adoptive family, a ‘fast’ but beautiful woman called Martha, sneaking a whole roast chicken up in to her rich boudoir of velvets and silk for the children and her to eat away from the father. This latter is a kind man who works hard as a vet, but who nevertheless proved to be a disappointing match for Martha, whose fluctuating recollections had her as a ballet dancer, or an actress: ‘ “I could have married a hundred men, a hundred men cried at my wedding…. One was an actor, one was a poet, a dozen were in the diplomatic service.” Her voice trailed off as she went over to speak to her two pet goldfish on the dressing-table’. When they hear the husband coming up the stairs, Martha rushes to hide the half-eaten chicken in the wardrobe amongst her summer cases and fur capes.
In addition, this book is completely free of ‘consciously’ examining anything. The relationship between Kaithleen and her father is fascinating, but clearly observed rather than manipulated. I was touched by a scene where he bought Kaithleen a Christmas present of a pair of beautiful suede shoes, her first pair of high heels. She hates her father, and gives him a simple kiss on the cheek and perfunctory thank you; and he can have no idea how happy the shoes have made his only child, his daughter. Through simple events such as these, unanalysed, it is possible for us to view the complexities of their relationship: the loneliness of the father, than anger and shame of the daughter.
O’Brien’s language can be as simply beautiful as the things she describes: “The buds had thrust their way to the very tips of the thin, black, melancholy birch branches. The buds were lime green and the branches black, slender branches stirring in the wind…” However occasionally, perhaps as a natural side effect of the spontaneity of O’Brien’s writing, there are some rather slap-dash patches, which highlighted that this story was being written by a harried writer at a desk who had perhaps children fighting downstairs and the washing still to hang out. ‘During those three years nothing special happened to us, so I can pass quickly over them,’ and ‘The chance came in March 1952. I mean the chance to escape.’ As well as this, the ending is very sudden and feels lopped; I can only assume the next novel in the series picks up almost directly from this moment in Kaithleen’s life, and was effectively cut here to restart again somewhere else. However these are tiny faults in what is otherwise a wonderful book. O’Brien’s writing brought me directly in to Kaithleen’s world: admittedly a possible chlichéd world, comprising a spell at a stern convent school, first kisses and cows in fields, but one so personally described, and with such individual undertones, that it felt sparkling and tantalising… as I suppose life does to a 14 –year old girl coming of age.
Profile Image for Steve.
820 reviews237 followers
April 15, 2022
Short but extremely well-done novel by O'Brien (her first) about two young Irish girls ("Cait" and "Baba") growing up, going to a spirit crushing convent school, and then on to Dublin to work, sometime around the late 50s is my guess. Cait and Baba (Caithleen and Bridget) are friends and, at times, frenemies. That said, Cait has an abusive father, and Baba's family is always there as place refuge when the old man is in his cups. Cait is something of a romantic dreamer, but one who consistently does well in school. The more pragmatic but poor at school Baba is ready, ready or not, for adulthood. Not much of a plot, but what an eye for character detail! O'Brien is a writer's writer. Comparisons with Chekhov or Katherine Anne Porter are apt. Each perfectly placed word, each sentence, are a treat for the experience reader. It seems ridiculous to award a first novel 5 stars, but O'Brien is that good.
9 reviews4 followers
June 5, 2020
A really great novel showing the progression of two young females through their childhood into adulthood and the development of their friendship. The two female characters are very strong and carry the story. Baba, the protagonist's best friend is a right bitch and such a necessary but toxic influence. We all know somebody like her.
This was originally banned back in the 60s so I was expecting lots of sex but there literally was none (spoiler?). Makes you wonder why Ireland was so proud and averse to discussing issues such as those that are dealt with in this book. Provides an authentic insight into traditional, country Ireland that thankfully is a begone time. So many questionable things happen, so much to think about, so very mad I didn't see this when it was playing in the Abbey :(
Profile Image for Emma Flanagan.
130 reviews48 followers
March 25, 2015
The Country Girls follows the story of Cait and Baba, from their childhood in rural County Clare and convent school to Dublin as they struggle to understand live and search for love.

Published in 1960 it was banned upon publication in Ireland for its portrayal of sex. In O’Briens home parish it was publicly burnt. In 1962 it won the Kingsley Amis Award.

The issues they face are as recognisable and relateable today as 50 yrs ago. Young girls today may know more about the biology then Cait and Baba, but they still struggle in their search for love.

However it was the portrayal of the relationship between the girls I enjoyed most. It completely encapsulated the ups and downs of teenage girls friendships. Teenage girls can be awful to each other one moment and the best of friends the next. Baba is a right little rip who could do with a good kick up the arse. It’s clear however that she needs Cait, just as much if not more than Cait needs her. Cait is the typical good girl, quiet and we’ll behaved. She needs Baba, especially in Dublin to encourage her to go out and enjoy life in the big city. Together they help and support each other through those tumultuous years, there is a sense though towards the end (without giving you much away) that it is time for them to set out on their own to discover who the truly are.
Profile Image for David.
Author 1 book30 followers
August 5, 2016
One of the most enjoyable novels (the whole trilogy, in fact) that I have ever read. In my search to really understand the soul, character, and personality of women, Edna O'Brien is a lucky find for me. She is a master, not only in this novel but of every piece she's written practically. One cannot go wrong in picking up any book written by her. They will learn, feel and appreciate. Her works stay with you.
Profile Image for Gillian Norrie.
64 reviews1 follower
February 8, 2022
Easy read but surprisingly nuanced coming of age story set in rural Ireland and Dublin. Some real laugh out loud parts as well as being quite dark.
Profile Image for Hanne.
223 reviews318 followers
December 27, 2013
I love O’Brien’s writing. She writes with such vivid imagery, it is impossible not to see Ireland while you are reading it. This story is set in rural western Ireland, county Clare (or Limerick perhaps) going by places mentioned in the book, a place I spent some time in the past. In fact I was one of “these eejits who come over to the Burren to look at flowers.”

And yet, though some of the descriptions make my mind go on holiday and make me long for a walk in the Irish countryside, most of what is described is no holiday picture. The book was published in 1960 and tells the story of a young girl growing up with a drunken father she fears, a mother she adores but dies when she is young. Then, going off to boarding school where they are taught by the nuns that “You are not alone in your loneliness. Loneliness is no excuse for disobedience.” A lesson they both struggle with for years to come.

Regarding all the issues this book quietly addresses, this Wikipedia quote sums it all up really: “O'Brien's works often revolve around the inner feelings of women, and their problems in relating to men, and to society as a whole. Her first novel, The Country Girls, is often credited with breaking silence on sexual matters and social issues during a repressive period in Ireland following World War II.The book was banned, burned and denounced from the pulpit, and O'Brien left Ireland behind.”

O'Brien's ability to write vividly doesn't only work with landscapes, but also for people or events: I love the picture she paints of that girl on her bicycle going through town, fearing that perhaps her father had returned, but day-dreaming about Mr. Gentleman in his white house on the hill at the same time. Or all the smothered crying in the dormitory of the convent school on their first night there.
Some characters of her short stories also make an appearance. I had to smile when I discovered that there was a help called 'Hickey' in this book as well, and there was a similar reaction when reading about the idea of 'going for tea with the Connor girls'.

I don't often drink tea. But I have a craving for it whenever I read O'Brien. Even if there are no Connor Girls around here. Even if it's not happy tea.
Profile Image for Alan Teder.
2,060 reviews109 followers
September 23, 2021
Review of the Faber & Faber revised paperback edition (2017) based on the original theatrical adaptation (2011) which was based on the original novel (1960)

I was so inspired to read The Country Girls after reading my GR friend JimZ's recent enthusiastic review that I ordered a copy immediately online. The Toronto Public Library seemed to only have reference copies of the 1960 edition. I scanned the GR editions looking for a recent publication and spotted a Faber & Faber 2017 listing and went for that one. Unfortunately, due to an overzealous, but careless, GR Librarian, that 2017 version had been merged with the novel as if it was the same work (I was obviously not paying close enough attention to the small print). It turns out it was a theatrical version that was adapted much later, first in 2011 and then revised and republished in 2017. So I've now read the cart before the horse.

This was still an entertaining adaptation and I have to assume it is at least a somewhat accurate encapsulation of the novel since it was done by Edna O'Brien herself. The 2017 theatrical version has quite a lot of singing, making it almost a musical. Various popular Irish folk songs are sung by the cast (primarily Kate and Baba) such as "Ring a Ring o' Roses", "I'll Tell My Ma When I Get Home", "The Spanish Lady", etc. throughout.

In any case, I'm still looking forward to reading the novel once I am able to source it.

Triva and Links
The 2017 theatrical version of The Country Girls was revived by the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, Ireland in 2019 and they posted two trailers for the production on YouTube here and here.
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