Extraordinary ascensions

Extraordinary ascensions

Country Girl: A Memoir

by Edna O’Brien

Faber and Faber, $35 hb, 339 pp, 9780571269433

The Love Object: Collected Stories of Edna O’Brien

by Edna O’Brien

Faber and Faber, $39.99 hb, 560 pp, 9780571270286

In the 1960s she was deemed an Irish Jezebel. After the publication of her début novel, The Country Girls (1960), the local postmistress told her father that a fitting punishment would be for her to be kicked naked through the town.

Now, a half century later, her litterateur countryman John Banville has introduced Edna O’Brien’s Collected Stories with unalloyed tribute: ‘She is, simply, one of the finest writers of our time.’ And on the flyleaf of her new memoir, Country Girl, Seamus Heaney’s praise for her incarnational language is paired with his grasp of its authentic, dark sources: ‘One great virtue of Edna O’Brien’s writing is the sensation it gives of a world made new by language … A lyric language which is all the more trustworthy because it issues from a sensibility that has known the costs as well as the rewards of being alive.’

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Published in April 2014 no. 360

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