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Mother Ireland: A Memoir
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Mother Ireland: A Memoir

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  169 Ratings  ·  12 Reviews
"Mother Ireland" includes seven essays seamlessly woven into an autobiographical tapestry. In her lyrical, sensuous voice, O'Brien describes growing up in rural County Clare, from her days in a convent school to her first kiss to her eventual migration to England. Weaving her own personal history with the history of Ireland, she effortlessly melds local customs and ancient ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published March 1st 1999 by Plume (first published 1976)
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Jan 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Prolific Irish writer Edna O'Brien was born in County Clare in 1930. MOTHER IRELAND is her first nonfiction book: it was written in 1976. O'Brien comments on the title: "Countries are either mothers or fathers...Ireland has always been a woman, a womb, a cave, a cow, a Rosaleen, a sow, a bride, a harlot, and, of course, the gaunt Hag of Beare."

In 1979 I entered the University of North Florida as a night student pursuing a degree in Literature. I joined UNF's Irish Studies program in 1986...its f
Apr 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, nonfiction
Very much reflections of a certain time and place in Ireland and can be a bit rambling, but if you have ever been or enjoy Irish writers, you will find something to like in this work.

Favorite quotes: "People fall in love with Ireland. They go there and are smitten, see the white cottages nestling so to speak beneath the hills, the ranges of brooding blue mountain, the haze above them, the fuchsia hedges in Kerry, the barking dogs, the chalky limestone steppes of west Clare, a phenomenon so unyi
Aug 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I am embarrassed to say that this wonderful memoir sat unread on my bookshelf since the year 2000. I picked it up (and paid for it) at a souvenir shop whilst my sister and I were on a trip to Ireland celebrating my 50th birthday. The author's last name, being the same as my own, very likely had gotten my attention while I was gathering a few books to take home with me at the end of my trip. I have no real excuse for not reading the book other than I tend to favor historical fiction over memoirs ...more
Jun 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Edna O’Brien has been called the “doyenne” of Irish literature and is considered by some to be one of the most gifted writers of her generation. But when her books were first published they were banned in much of Ireland and she was definitely not very well thought of in her native village of Tuamgraney in eastern County Clare. This little volume of seven interconnected and autobiographical essays is a good indication of why the people she grew up with (many of whom show up in her novels) were n ...more
Feb 08, 2010 marked it as to-read
My mom's childhood (life) was not really a happy one. She wasn't particulary fond of the pain Frank McCourt's memoir brought up. He tells some very funny anecdotes but bottom line is if this is too upsetting, I may not finish it.
Aug 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Now this book is memoir, the kind of memoir that stays with you, and isn't just about a horrible or even merely crappy childhood. I learned about O'Brien in an issue of the Smithsonian, and I'm so sad I never learned of her by now. She is a literary Maeve Binchy. Now, you know I love Maeve, and I think of her as really good popcorn with butter: Riverview theater popcorn. O'Brien is figs wrapped in prosciutto, drizzled with olive oil and fresh mint drifted over. At first, the writing was like sil ...more
Gerard White
Jan 28, 2016 rated it liked it
An extremely interesting book with moments of amazing writing; however, I found the stream-of-consciousness style distracting at some points; it made me feel as if Ms. O'Brien left things unsettled or too open-ended at important points.

That said, I loved the arc of motherhood the work traced, from that of Mother Ireland, to the writer's mother, to the mother of the convent, and to Ms. O'Brien's fear of motherhood engrained in her by her Catholic upbringing.

I also enjoyed her comparisons to Joyce
May 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I am so glad this is being reissued. So much has changed in daily life in Ireland now that it is important to have a record of the Ireland that my parents grew up in. O'Brien's writing is as always lyrical. Written more as a series of reflections than in linear fashion the pieces show her impatiences with the society she felt was restrctive, as well as her love for her inheritance. It explores her reasons for going to live in England, her regret at her need to leave, and her sense of being the o ...more
Jun 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those who like to pretend they are Irish
This was a perfect book for my recent Irish literature craze (which resulted in a book by John McGahern, a group of plays by Martin McDonagh, The Truth about the Irish, and one bought, but uncracked Anthology of Irish literature--also resulted in a weekly combination of orange, green, and white clothing).

O'Brien gives the reader a great sense of the complications of Irishness. She lands hard on what she perceives as backwards and moves from history and myth to the trials of mundane life with ea
It's Edna O'Brien. The woman knows how to spin a yarn, and doubly so when it's her own memoirs. Her style is very lyrical, however, so if you're a fan of more straight up, parsed down prose, this is probably not the Irish memoir for you.
Aug 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful book - it made me want to go to Ireland in the worse way - more so than reading Joyce. Her prose is really inspired by poetry, which is not uncommon for Irish writers. I also read her study of Joyce, which was really compact and potent.
Feb 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
Just not my favorite. A bit morose, perhaps even melodramatic, and the prose felt unnecessarily heavy. Not to devalue Ms. O'Brien's experiences, but it just didn't do anything for me.
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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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