Monday, March 18, 2013

532. The Girl with Green Eyes – Edna O'Brien

History: This book was published in 1962 with the title of “The Lonely Girl” It is the second in the “Country Girls” trilogy .
Plot: The Lonely Girl continues the story of childhood friends Kate and Baba, now both twenty-one, as they navigate the rocky, sometimes treacherous pathways of urban life. With hearts as big as Dublin, and hopes as bright as new pennies, they move bravely and eagerly toward the future. Yet the two couldn't be more different. Kate toils in a grocery shop and lives out her romantic fantasies in books. Baba entertains more earthbound dreams. Kate becomes involved with a much older and married man, a writer named Eugene Gaillard, who eyes her and ignores her more worldly roommate.
The relationship is much opposed by her father and the village she had run away from. Her father comes to get her and imposes her to the house to get her away from Eugene. But Kate is determined to go back to Dublin, and she eventually escapes from her father and the rural village.
Eugene and Kate consummate their relationship and Kate moves in with him in the country. Unfamiliar with him, his friends, and his life with his wife, trouble is inevitable. They argue and make up numerous times. Until Eugene pushes her away finally, she moves out and goes back to Baba. He eventually goes back to his wife, and Kate is heartbroken.
Review: Published in one volume, the three books known as “The Country Girls Trilogy” – were what put Edna O’Brien on the map. Her first novel was “The Country Girls”, published in 1960. True to Irish tradition, her book was banned. Not just that book – but all the subsequent Country Girls books, as well as many of her other books. O’Brien just wasn’t “playing nice” with Irish sensibilities, and wrote openly about sex and the life of Dublin girls, and marriage, and religion – and so stepped right into hot water. As a young girl, Edna O’Brien read James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and it changed her life. She didn’t know what she wanted to do – but it had to be something to do with literature. She recently wrote a biography of Joyce (one of my favorite quotes from it: “He would carry his work ‘like a chalice’ and all his life he would insist that what he did ‘was a kind of sacrament.’ Father, Son and Holy Ghost along with Jakes McCarthy informed every graven word. On a more secular note he liked blackberry jam because Christ’s crown of thorns came from that wood and he wore purple cravats during Lent.”), and I believe at one point she also wrote a book about the marriage of James and Nora Joyce. Her artistic mentor, the star she followed. There’s a funny line in The Country Girls – Kate and Baba, the two best friends, hang out in Dublin in pubs (and this is 1950s Dublin) – and at one point Baba pulls Kate aside and says, “Stop asking the boys if they’re read James Joyce’sDubliners.” Like – that is NOT a good courtship technique!
Opening Line: “It was a wet afternoon in October, as I copied out the September accounts from the big grey ledger.”
Closing Line: “What Baba doesn’t know is that I’m finding my feet, and when I’m able to talk I imagine that I won’t be so alone, or so very far away from the world he tried to draw me into, too soon.”
Quotes: “We all leave one another. We die, we change - it's mostly change - we outgrow our best friends; but even if I do leave you, I will have passed on to you something of myself; you will be a different person because of knowing me; it's inescapable...”
Rating: Good.

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