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Karl Miller: Edna O’Brien, 22 November 2012

Country Girl: A Memoir 
by Edna O’Brien.
Faber, 339 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 0 571 26943 3
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... Clare,’ said one of the plain people of the West of Ireland, following the notoriety caused by Edna O’Brien’s fine first novel, The Country Girls, published in 1960. The notoriety was echoed in England: the last of England’s eminent Edwardian novelists, L.P. Hartley, described the novel, she has recalled, as ‘the skittish story of two Irish ...

Watching Dragons Mate

Patricia Lockwood: Edna O’Brien’s ‘Girl’, 5 December 2019

by Edna O’Brien.
Faber, 230 pp., £16.99, September 2019, 978 0 571 34116 0
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... Atypical​ Edna O’Brien story begins on a square of green. A stone farmhouse looms behind, with a slick spot on the flagstones where the same tin can is emptied every morning by the hired man. Pigs are somewhere in the mix, as are sheep and cows. Around and above and within the green floats another colour, that of deep velvet, the sacred heart, a dog’s tongue ...

Dr Vlad

Terry Eagleton: Edna O’Brien, 22 October 2015

The Little Red Chairs 
by Edna O’Brien.
Faber, 320 pp., £18.99, October 2015, 978 0 571 31628 1
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... of this profitable industry. It is fitting, then, that one of the two main characters of Edna O’Brien’s new novel, her first for ten years, is a bogus shaman with more than a faint resemblance to the post-genocidal Radovan Karadžić. Dr Vladimir Dragan, a Montenegrin holy man with white hair, a white beard and a long black coat, descends on ...

At the Half

Andrew O’Hagan, 20 May 2021

... voles returned from a savage encounter with daylight. At London’s Duchess Theatre one night, Edna O’Brien and I climbed a million steps to the dressing rooms to congratulate Mark Rylance and his co-star on their performances in Beckett’s Endgame. It was a thankless journey. Rylance had no booze, and his co-star, still smarting from the review in ...

Seeing things

Rosemary Dinnage, 4 December 1980

The Story of Ruth 
by Morton Schatzman.
Duckworth, 306 pp., £6.95, September 1980, 0 7156 1504 1
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... The jacket of The Story of Ruth is adorned with praise from the famous: Edna O’Brien, among others, found it ‘disturbing and quite fascinating’, and Doris Lessing ‘a valuable book, an original’. It is a pity it comes in the kind of packaging that will repel the averagely fastidious reader. Duckworth have printed it in type about one size smaller than that of a Janet and John reader, and sub-titled it ‘one woman’s haunting psychiatric odyssey ...

On Michael Longley

Colin Burrow: Michael Longley, 19 October 2017

... it might seem a wee bit in-groupy: the first poem is dedicated to Fleur Adcock; others are for Edna O’Brien; others modestly describe having his portrait painted. But there is a nice twinkle in Longley’s eye when he remembers ‘That time I shared a lobster with Heaney/(Boston? New York?) he took the bigger claw’ and ‘Mahon was unimpressed by ...


Peter Campbell, 5 January 1989

The Letter of Marque 
by Patrick O’Brian.
Collins, 284 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 9780241125434
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by Hugh Thomas.
Hamish Hamilton, 347 pp., £12.95, October 1988, 0 241 12527 8
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From Rockaway 
by Jill Eisenstadt.
Penguin, 214 pp., £3.99, September 1988, 0 14 010347 3
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The High Road 
by Edna O’Brien.
Weidenfeld, 180 pp., £10.95, October 1988, 0 297 79493 0
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Loving and Giving 
by Molly Keane.
Deutsch, 226 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 0 223 98346 2
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by Louise Erdrich.
Hamish Hamilton, 226 pp., £11.95, October 1988, 9780241125434
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... sense it gives that, within its formal limits, it is a true first look at life after childhood. Edna O’Brien has given lush local and emotional colour to The High Road. One imagines her narrator, Anna, may be a bit heavy with the scent bottle, just as she herself is with her descriptions of dreams, of the smells of flowers, of colours and ...

Author’s Editor

A. Alvarez, 24 January 1980

... He also had, and still has, the gratitude and affection of a host of authors as different as Edna O’Brien and Eric Ambler, Ronald Blythe and Antonia Fraser. That, perhaps, is the crucial difference between the two men. Lane was a publisher’s publisher, a man with immense commercial flair who opened up markets no one had ever dreamed existed but ...

Green War

Patricia Craig, 19 February 1987

Poetry in the Wars 
by Edna Longley.
Bloodaxe, 264 pp., £12.95, November 1986, 0 906427 74 6
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We Irish: The Selected Essays of Denis Donoghue 
Harvester, 275 pp., £25, November 1986, 0 7108 1011 3Show More
The Battle of The Books 
by W.J. McCormack.
Lilliput, 94 pp., £3.95, October 1986, 0 946640 13 0
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The Twilight of Ascendancy 
by Mark Bence-Jones.
Constable, 327 pp., £14.95, January 1987, 0 09 465490 5
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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl 
edited by John Quinn.
Methuen, 144 pp., £8.95, November 1986, 0 413 14350 3
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... poetry, is a belligerent business. It doesn’t stop with the book titles, either: the chapter on Edna Longley in W.J. McCormack’s short and contentious study of Irish cultural debate requires us to attend to ‘the reaction from Ulster’, and sums it up thus: ‘Fighting or Writing?’ This humorously echoes the famous anti-Home Rule poster with its ...

Infante’s Inferno

G. Cabrera Infante, 18 November 1982

Legacies: Selected Poems 
by Heberto Padilla, translated by Alastair Reid and Andrew Hurley.
Faber, 179 pp., £8.75, September 1982, 0 374 18472 0
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... of the island or rather archipelago. The other went before and after that unholy second coming. Edna O’Brien, poor girl, visited Cuba the way Alice travelled to the other side of the looking-glass – darkly but gladly. England can be so boring on a wet afternoon! Besides she had never tasted looking-glass milk. That’s what they call the daiquiri ...


Anne Enright: Censorship in Ireland, 21 March 2013

... in the Bell, a periodical edited by Sean O’Faolain, and in the pages of the Irish Times. Kate O’Brien’s The Land of Spices was banned in 1941, on the basis of the single sentence: ‘She saw Etienne and her father in the embrace of love.’ She was the only Irish writer to appeal the board’s decision – a fact that showed either collective ...

English Fame and Irish Writers

Brian Moore, 20 November 1980

Selected Poems 1956-1975 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 136 pp., £3.95, October 1980, 0 571 11644 2
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Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1968-1978 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 224 pp., £7.95, October 1980, 0 571 11638 8
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... and Homeric has been a central preoccupation of modernist Irish writers: Yeats, Joyce, Flann O’Brien, and, arguably, Beckett, have all made Iliads of local rows. Heaney, in a somewhat different manner, shares this preoccupation, as these Selected Poems, chosen by himself from the volumes of poetry he published before Field Work, attest. For when he ...

The Hero Brush

Edmund Gordon: Colum McCann, 12 September 2013

by Colum McCann.
Bloomsbury, 298 pp., £18.99, May 2013, 978 1 4088 2937 0
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... suggest that a writer is even better than Nathan Englander – he tends to lapse into mumbo-jumbo. Edna O’Brien is ‘the necessary edge of who we are … a riverrun writer, bringing us back and propelling us forward’. Don DeLillo’s Point Omega is ‘the one that takes the skin away, that sings at the deep raw edge’. I had read dozens of ...


Jenny Diski: Caroline Blackwood, 18 October 2001

Dangerous Muse: A Life of Caroline Blackwood 
by Nancy Schoenberger.
Weidenfeld, 336 pp., £20, June 2001, 0 297 84101 7
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... least interesting, even if not, as the press handout bizarrely suggests, comparable to that of Edna O’Brien, Iris Murdoch, Muriel Spark and Samuel Beckett (though I wish just for the sake of the gaiety of the nation that someone’s work was comparable with all those writers). The writing strains towards being very good, but is sabotaged by ...

I Wish I’d Never Had You

Jenny Turner: Janice Galloway, 9 October 2008

This Is Not about Me 
by Janice Galloway.
Granta, 341 pp., £16.99, September 2008, 978 1 84708 061 5
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... calling them ‘nosey bastards’, slamming the window shut. She belts Janice when she brings home Edna O’Brien from the library: ‘I can’t read this. She knows damn well.’ And then, she does something so nasty with an ice cream, it’s like a moment from a Tarantino movie, except that it trembles with the unsureness, uncertainty, reality, that ...

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