Avid book reader. Lover of fantasy, contemporary fiction, short stories and non-fiction. This blog is a work in progress - and it will likely always be that way.
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 as well. 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, and a mother she adores but dies when she is young. Then, going off to boarding school with another village girl 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.
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.