History: The first novel written by Irish author Edna O'Brien. It was released in 1960. The novel shows the influence of James Joyce with a humane attention to detail and thought and the rather lyrical prose of the narrator Kate. Edna O'Brien helped to launch a new generation of Irish writers more focused on the demands and values of society. This is the first of the country Girls Trilogy.
Plot: Kate and Baba, two young Irish country girls who have spent their childhood together. As they leave the safety of their convent school in search of life and love in the big city, they struggle to maintain their somewhat tumultuous relationship. Kate, dreamy and romantic, yearns for true love, while Baba just wants to experience the life of a single girl. Although they set out to conquer the world together, as their lives take unexpected turns, Kate and Baba must ultimately learn to find their own way. Kate, an irish school girl who has no chance in life, growing up in Ireland, mother dies, and her father is a drunk. She falls in love with an older married man when she is only 14. And they date.
Review: This book leaves the reader panting for the next installment in the tragicomic life of Caithleen and her somehow sometimes friend Baba Brennan. Baba is a vain, grasping girl who needs friend like Caithleen, someone who broods about the feelings of others and gets good grades as well. Each time Baba hurts or betrays Kate, you want our heroine to get finally angry, but they are locked in a dance. Baba is the more sophisticated, her mother an acknowledged town slut, and Caithleen is the child of a noted drunkard and a mother who drowned mysteriously in a tragic scene with the merest hint of debauchery. Kate nourishes a yen for true romance, which she’s sure she’ll find with the mysterious Mr. Gentleman with his French airs, while Baba, ever the pragmatist, says of their boring escorts, “Think of the dinner…lamb and mint sauce.”
When we are forced to leave these delightful young women, Baba has begun a six-month stay at a tuberculosis sanatorium. Four years to the day after the death of her mother, Caithleen is preparing to meet Mr. Gentleman in Dublin from whence they will sail to Venice for a proper romance, she in a lilac-colored nighty borrowed from the landlady and smelling of camphor. He does not show up.
Opening Line: “I wakened quickly and sat up in bed abruptly.”
Closing Line: “It was almost certain that I wouldn’t sleep that night.”
Quotes: “Always on the brink of trouble I look at something, like a tree or a flower or an old shoe, to keep me from palpitating.”