cover image Country Girl: A Memoir

Country Girl: A Memoir

Edna O’Brien. Little, Brown, $27.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-316-12270-2

Demure reflections on her celebrated literary life well lived comprise this lovely memoir by Irish novelist and short story author O’Brien (Saints and Sinners). Organized thematically, O’Brien meanders from her deeply Catholic, decidedly respectable upbringing in Drewsboro, County Clare, where the budding young writer experienced the sensuous rural impressions that imbued her early work, through schooling with the Galway nuns and a four-year apprenticeship at a chemist’s shop in Dublin. But she yearned for a glittering literary world, “with all its sins and guile and blandishments.” Indeed, marrying the older, cosmopolitan novelist Ernest Gebler in her early 20s allowed O’Brien instant entrée into the literary milieu. She also gave birth to two sons. The publication of her first novel, The Country Girls, in 1960, spelled both the end of her marriage to a seething, resentful husband and her start as the novelist of the moment, reviled by the church for her depictions of liberated, sexual women while feted by literary lions of London and New York. Fetching, game, and talented, O’Brien attracted numerous famous studs, and she makes some bedroom confessions, revealing a night of “sparkle” with Robert Mitchum. The book also includes lively depictions of her Saturday-night parties in her house in Putney, England, during the Swinging Sixties. From Chelsea to New York to Donegal, O’Brien always returns to the enduring heart of her writing. Agent: Ed Victor, Ed Victor Literary Agency. (Apr.)