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The Country Girls

“Can you post eggs to England?”

The Country Girls ~ Edna O’Brien

Ever have one of those books that made you wonder why you’ve heard so much about them but never read it? This was one of them for me. After just a few chapters I couldn’t help feeling like a “right eejit” for not having picked up this book sooner. Described as a coming of age story of two Irish girls, the book is so much more than that. Caithleen and Baba are fourteen year olds who have spent ordinary lives in the country, trying to avoid drunken fathers as much as possible and get away from the binds of a rural life. They find themselves in a convent but manage to escape from there to the big brightly lit city of Dublin, towards their independence. The relationship between Caithleen and Baba is probably what is most entertaining about the book. Although they are best friends and can seemingly not do without each other, the first time we meet Baba is when she openly steals Kate’s lilacs to present it to their teacher in order to impress her.

To think this was O’Brien’s first book! From the vivid imagery of beautiful Irish countryside living to the description of the most basic human existence and struggles; the book lures you in with its engaging dialogue and a simple plot. This book is actually a part of a trilogy which is why you might find it too short and incomplete, but you will definitely be compelled to read the other two. Also, I was surprised to learn that the entire series was banned when it was initially published because of how Ireland felt towards the characters discovering their own sexuality, in the middle of their conservative Catholic lives. No,you may thumb through the pages of the book and be hard pressed to find a single paragraph that could make you blush or fan yourself furiously.

Why you should read it:

  • This might have shocked Ireland in the 1960’s, but it will interest you and at best creep out your modern outlook on life
  • Caithleen and Baba’s love-hate relationship might remind you of friends you had and have chosen to forget
  • Naive characters who make you laugh and cringe

Why you shouldn’t read it:

  • Stay away from this book if ‘Lolita’ made you physically sick