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Country Girl: A Memoir Hardcover – April 30, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; Reprint edition (April 30, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031612270X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316122702
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #154,594 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The doyenne of contemporary Irish letters did not enjoy a straight-line rise to international fame and critical regard. In fact, for many years, O’Brien’s novels were banned in her native Ireland for indecency. Now, of course, in more relaxed and open-minded times, her fiction (brilliant short stories as well as novels) is seen for what it always was, richly illuminating and, yes, candid depictions of women’s needs and desires, rendered with no sentimentality or salaciousness. Born into a rural family that once knew wealth but at the time of her birth had only memories of better times, Edna had a precocious interest in being a writer. Convent schooling is remembered in this absorbing memoir as “dour.” Relatively sophisticated Dublin beckoned. She answered the call by apprenticing in a chemist’s shop in the capital, all the while “convinced she would meet poets and that one day she would be admitted into the world of letters.” She and the husband she had acquired moved to London (her marriage was to prove untenable), and there she began writing in earnest and with success. At this point in her remembrance, her memoir shifts into something different in substance and tone. Her unembellished Irish upbringing gives way to the glamour of the celebrity life she led in London. Still, her book is a beautifully expressed testament to a writer’s tenacity. --Brad Hooper

Review

Praise for Country Girl

"Ms. O'Brien has long and correctly been recognized as among the greatest Irish writers of the 20th century. She's had an outsize life to match her outsize talent."--Dwight Garner, New York Times

"O'Brien's account of her life is completely irresistible."--Kate Tuttle, Boston Globe

"O'Brien's religion has been literature; to it she has remained devout, with a fervor that is contagious...She is no saint. She is an icon."--Stacy Schiff, New York Times Book Review

"In prose as lyrical and exacting as any in O'Brien's fiction, Country Girl evokes both the solitariness and the adventure of a life devoted to writing."--Megan O'Grady, Vogue

"Edna O'Brien has made of her memories something of both precision and depth, a book that, letting us see her as she was, jumps with an all-consuming curiosity from one lucidly narrated event to another."--Philip Roth

"In Country Girl there is great honesty and struggle, and joy and sorrow leaping together--pure life!"--Alice Munro

"You must suffer to become yourself, and it doesn't get easier. I took heart from Country Girl, both as the self-portrait of a great prose stylist, and an exemplary female survivor."--Judith Thurman, "Best Books of 2012," The New Yorker

"Flashes of prodigious beauty and power."--Hilary Mantel

"The doyenne of contemporary Irish letters did not enjoy a straight-line rise to international fame and critical regard. . .Now, of course, O'Brien's fiction (brilliant short stories as well as novels) is seen for what it always was, richly illuminating and, yes, candid depictions of women's needs and desires, rendered with no sentimentality or salaciousness. . . .Her book is a beautifully expressed testament to a writer's tenacity."-Brad Hooper, Booklist (starred review)



"Demure reflections on her celebrated literary life well lived comprise this lovely memoir....O'Brien always returns to the enduring heart of her writing."-Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Country Girl is a book of magics, truths, stories, and quiet immensity. No one else could have written it, and no one else could have lived it."-Andrew O'Hagan, author of Be Near Me

"Get ready to applaud, ladies and gentlemen, because there is no one like her. O'Brien, in her 80s, may look like an icon and talk like an icon, but she writes like the thing itself, with prose that is scrupulous and lyrical, beautiful and exact...."-Anne Enright, Guardian (UK)

"When sex fails you, there's always gossip. An excellent memoir, Country Girl provided it in shedloads, along with some moral seriousness to boot."-Louise Doughty, Observer (UK)

"Edna O'Brien's Country Girl shimmers with heart, soul and literary brilliance."-Nancy R. Ives, Library Journal

"After dazzling readers and reviewers around the world for decades, O'Brien, now 82, finally turns her attention to her own life. Country Girl is as dramatic as any novel."-O, the Oprah Magazine

"O'Brien is skilled at snatching triumph from melancholy....Thrilling, sensuous, unblinking."-Lisa Shea, Elle

"Edna O'Brien had to exile herself, like Joyce and Beckett, to become herself. Mad Ireland hurt her into prose the way Auden said it had hurt Yeats into poetry....Literature-O'Brien's most faithful companion, her deepest faith-brings what consolation it can. She returns the favor by adding her extravagant lyricism to its trove."-Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times

"A wonderful, lively memoir."-Katie Roiphe, Slate.com

"Edna O'Brien, for whom the word 'redoubtable' may well have been coined, has lived a long and quite remarkable life...Anyone who knows and loves her work, as I do, will want to read Country Girl from start to finish."-Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

"We follow O'Brien through convent school, love affairs, motherhood, the banning of her books, and her working years in London and New York. Along the way, we encounter Günter Gras, Joseph Brodsky, Jackie Onassis, and other luminaries. O'Brien beautifully renders her remarkably rich life, her 'many me's.'"-The New Yorker

"This is a big, robust life, and though one might come for the literary gossip, the lucid prose and sharp insight command one's attention. It's with good reason that this memoir has been placed on so many lists of best books of 2013...We're in the thrall of one of the most beguiling and resilient contemporary writers, a stylist and a survivor...through it all, she's an exuberant literary pioneer." -Elizabeth Taylor, Chicago Tribune (Editor's Choice)

More About the Author

Edna O'Brien, the author of "The Country Girls" Trilogy, "The Light of Evening," and "Byron in Love," is the recipient of the James Joyce Ulysses Medal, and an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

This book I found very interesting.
BAM
There's too much unnecessary detail, and an over-abundance of famous names scattered throughout.
lisa
It seemed like a lot of name-dropping about some famous folks without much substance.
Carol Shaddox

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Jean Gross on May 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This memoir seethes with life, an abundant life lived by a still vibrant Edna O'Brien.

I really can't fault this memoir. Truly, it's wonderful; her sumptuous way with words ( She has a tremendous vocabulary.) magnifies a sumptuous life filled with memories from Ireland to Singapore. By the way, O'Brien never complains or seems testy as we follow her glories and her travails-- from being a "country girl" to becoming a sophisticated author and a globally known personality.

We read about her family, her schooling in Ireland, her first romance (a same sex crush), her escape from convent life ( and a pharmacist's shop life) into the arms of her husband, who turns out to offer a tyranny of sorts ( He's treated rather generously, I think, in this telling). We get fantastic descriptions of her homes ( temporary and not) and their environs. We hear her guilt about being separated from her young boys. We suffer- a bit- with her when she has writer's block. We share her multitudinous friends and acquaintances ( many of them authors) with her. Many lovers, too; this is an important part of who she is. ( Some reviewers say that O'Brien name-drops a lot. I don't feel that this is the case. She describes these people,of course, as part of her life, which is full, but not in a way that appears to be bragging. Not pompously at all. Just part of who she is.)

The author is a product of her ( our) times but more than that. The times as seen through her eyes are lush and sparkle with the life she's lived and is living . One of the best memoirs I've read recently.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Léitheoir on May 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover
i agree with the other three-star reviews of this book. It is interesting when she deals with personal stuff like growing up in Ireland, her relationship with her parents and with her husband. But then she gets to the name-dropping parts where she seems to want to be anything but the country girl. Boooooring. After a while, I found myself flipping these pages -- giving another meaning to the description "page turner." It didn't have to be. There was a lot more material she could have covered such as completing the narrative of her relationship with her parents, particularly her mother who is mentioned in passing for years after O'Brien left home but with nary a word about what seems to be a fraught relationship.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mary Pinkerton on August 29, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read The Country Girls when it came out and admire Edna O'Brien very much. So maybe my expectations were unrealistic. The sections about her early life and beginning to write, the tensions with her mother and with the Catholic church, were beautifully written. That scene where her father is in the dining room with a loaded gun, only allowing the mother (and Edna) in was gripping and dramatic... amazing. After her marriage, however, the memoir seems to lose steam. I was hoping for more introspection and analysis, but instead the account seemed rather unfocused and superficial... and I'm sorry to say this.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kate Parrick on September 23, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was so excited to see this memoir emerge, I barely wait for the download. I was eager to hear O'Brien's sense of her extraordinary life as a younger writer. The author's childhood is rendered in exquisite, loaded imagery, pregnant with the foreboding of how her country will treat her in the future. Her journey to the city and to adulthood is beautifully handled. Indeed, all of the scenes (few through there are) in which O'Brien reflects on her life, choices and experiences, are rendered in a kind of lyrical magic realism. They are painterly and exquisite but as far removed from emotional truth as if she were writing of a monarch or consumptive princess. We hear of the ill treatment she receives at the hands of men, especially her (former) husband. But it is as though she is made of glass - we are not engaged into the emotional experiences or the shifts in self which result. I understand that memoirists sometimes gild the lily or soften the blow - this is her sons' father, after all. But when she speaks of basically anonymous figures, there is no risk to anyone in revealing the impact - formative, educative - of the experience. In fact, the greatest emotional truth actually comes in O'Brien's discussion of her loss of custody - sections which are tightly paced and read like a roman a'policier, so edged and gripping are they. But the writing in that section is the highlight of the book. There are seemingly endless sections which list famous people the author has met and parties she went to and celebrities who behaved badly - like endless landscape imagery, I just ran my eye over these sections. Then comes the self pity - while understandable and no doubt justified, it makes for heavy terrain for the reader.Read more ›
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Kcolorado on June 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is not an autobiograhy but a memoir. That is an important distinction. Reading it is not a linear experience of each year of the author's life, but a series of vignettes; memories. She includes a list of books that inspired this book and two that I have read and found quite similar are Nabokov's Speak, Memory and Elizabeth Hartwick's Sleepless Nights. She cites many more and I hope I can read more of them.
The strongest tie in Edna O'Brien's life is to Ireland. That may seem strange since she hasn't lived there since she was 19 or so. Yet Ireland is the subject of so many of her books and you feel while reading this one, that the title is right on, though not perhaps as we might see it at first. It is about love and hate and her words exquisitely express the depth of her feelings. Its a cliche but based in truth: you can leave a place but it doesn't always leave you.
I love her language and I was swept up in so many passages I wanted to read aloud and share with others. She is honest to a fault, and if she chooses to cite the many famous names that pepper the descriptions of her life in London in the 60s and 70s, so be it. I was glad that I read The Country Girl Trilogy first. So much of those novels comes from her life and reading both just enriches each of them.
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