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Edna O'Brien

Author of The Little Red Chairs

79+ Works 8,969 Members 233 Reviews 18 Favorited

About the Author

Writer Edna O'Brien was born in Clare County, Ireland, in 1930 and attended Pharmaceutical College in Dublin. O'Brien, winner of the Kingsley Amis Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Price and the European Literature Prize, has written short stories, novels, plays, television plays and screenplays. show more She has also written for such magazines as Cosmopolitan, Ladies Home Journal and The New Yorker. (Bowker Author Biography) Edna O'Brien's previous works of fiction include "Down by the River", "House of Splendid Isolation", "Time & Tide", & "Lantern Slides", which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction. Her book about James Joyce was published in 1999 & excerpted in "The New Yorker". An honorary member of the American Academy of Arts & Letters, O'Brien grew up in Ireland & now lives in London. (Publisher Provided) show less
Image credit: Edna O'Brien, pictured in 1968.


Works by Edna O'Brien

The Little Red Chairs (2015) 805 copies
The Country Girls (1960) 763 copies
Girl with Green Eyes (1962) 508 copies
In the Forest (2002) 503 copies
House of Splendid Isolation (1994) 455 copies
James Joyce (1999) 357 copies
Country Girl (2012) 339 copies
August is a Wicked Month (1965) 317 copies
Wild Decembers (1999) 301 copies
Girl (2019) 288 copies
Down by the River (1996) 286 copies
The Light of Evening (2006) 273 copies
Girls in Their Married Bliss (1964) 272 copies
A Pagan Place (1970) 249 copies
Saints and Sinners (2011) 176 copies
Night (1972) 175 copies
Mother Ireland (1976) 157 copies
Lantern Slides (1990) 149 copies
The High Road (1988) 143 copies
Time and Tide (1992) 140 copies
The Love Object: Stories (1968) 124 copies
Tales for the Telling: Irish Folk and Fairy Stories (1986) — Author — 117 copies
Johnny, I Hardly Knew You (1977) 91 copies
Casualties of Peace (1966) 90 copies
Virginia: A Play (1656) 65 copies
Philip Roth at 80: A Celebration (2014) — Contributor — 57 copies
Returning (1982) 55 copies
Zee & Co. (1971) 39 copies
Some Irish Loving (1979) 33 copies
Paradise: Faber Stories (2019) 25 copies
Vanishing Ireland (1986) 22 copies
Edna O'Brien Reader (1994) 19 copies
A Rose in the Heart (1979) 17 copies
James and Nora (1981) 15 copies
Girl with Green Eyes [1964 film] (1964) — Novel and Screenplay — 5 copies
Haunted (2010) 4 copies
The Rescue (1983) 3 copies
Arabian days (1977) 3 copies
Shovel Kings (2009) 3 copies
Sister Imelda 2 copies
Irish Revel (1998) 2 copies
The Paris Review 92 1984 Summer (1984) — Contributor — 2 copies
Joyce's Women (2022) 2 copies
Love's lesson (2000) 1 copy
A Journey 1 copy
A Christmas Treat (1982) 1 copy

Associated Works

The Penguin Book of Modern British Short Stories (1989) — Contributor — 423 copies
Women & Fiction: Short Stories By and About Women (1975) — Contributor — 361 copies
The Penguin Book of Gay Short Stories (1994) — Contributor — 308 copies
Mortification: Writers' Stories of Their Public Shame (2003) — Contributor — 293 copies
The Pleasure of Reading (1992) — Contributor — 186 copies
Nothing But You: Love Stories From The New Yorker (1997) — Contributor — 182 copies
Erotica: Women's Writing from Sappho to Margaret Atwood (1990) — Contributor — 168 copies
The Best American Essays 1995 (1995) — Contributor — 155 copies
The Penguin Book of Irish Fiction (1999) — Contributor — 150 copies
The Penguin Book of Irish Short Stories (1981) — Contributor — 128 copies
Mistresses of the Dark [Anthology] (1998) — Contributor — 118 copies
The Penguin Book of Women's Humour (1996) — Contributor — 114 copies
Deep Down: The New Sensual Writing by Women (1988) — Contributor — 114 copies
The Penguin Book of Modern Women's Short Stories (1990) — Contributor — 99 copies
The Treasury of English Short Stories (1985) — Contributor — 81 copies
The Literary Lover: Great Stories of Passion and Romance (1993) — Contributor — 50 copies
The Virago Book of Such Devoted Sisters (1993) — Contributor — 44 copies
Good Housekeeping Short Story Collection (1997) — Contributor — 15 copies
Women Writing: An Anthology (1979) — Contributor — 11 copies
Personal Choice (1977) — Contributor — 2 copies


Common Knowledge



A Book That Came Out The Year You Were Born

I could have categorized The Country Girls under "A Trilogy," and perhaps reading all three novels would have helped me appreciate this one more. Not being Irish, Catholic or a child of the '50s (much less female) prevented me from comprehending the groundbreaking nature of Edna O'Brien's story without the insights provided in the introduction (which I read after the novel and should be taken with a grain of feminist salt).

The Country Girls is the story of two young Irish girls, Caithleen and Bridget, who maintain a tenuous friendship through the death of Cait's mother and their "incarceration" in the convent they were sent to, ostensibly to be educated. During this time, fourteen-year-old Cait begins a highly romanticized affair with a much older married man, referred to as Mr. Gentleman due to her difficulty pronouncing his surname. She is ultimately expelled from the school her family cannot afford without the scholarship she earns after succumbing to the malignant influence of her purported friend. Whereupon the girls take up joint residency of a room in a lower-class boardinghouse in Dublin and their "education" continues.

Another book on all versions of the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list, The Country Girls reads like a train wreck in the making, with the premonition of catastrophe awaiting in the subsequent volumes.
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skavlanj | 30 other reviews | Oct 29, 2023 |
More of a novella, O'Brien does a tremendous job of bringing us inside the mind of a woman, Ellen, who is hurting and insecure after a divorce. In an effort to forget, Ellen takes a holiday in France, and basically behaves in a way that ends up reinforcing her sadness and depression. I loved the way this book was written. O'Brien really takes you inside Ellen's mind the entire time, and it is hard not to empathize with her feelings and situation and her deep deep loneliness. You feel like you are watching a girlfriend do all sorts of things that you know are bad for her, and you just want her say please stop doing this to yourself, but you also know she won't listen.

Unfortunately, the novel takes one misstep (in my opinion), and it's a pretty big one. Hence the four stars instead of five. But because I think the rest of the book is so exquisitely rendered, it really didn't diminish my enjoyment of the writing for long. Just a little "seriously?" came into my mind at this point. It's hard to share without spoiling.

So if you require books be uplifting in order to enjoy them, don't pick this one up. If you want to see how a masterful author can develop a character so real seeming that you want to befriend, help, and guide her, this book does that and more.
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Anita_Pomerantz | 13 other reviews | Mar 23, 2023 |
Ellen is a 27-year-old Irishwoman separated from her husband and living in London. When Ellen’s husband takes their seven-year-old young son — whom they share custody for — on a camping trip to Wales, Ellen is free to enjoy her own summer break from her job as a theatre critic. A week into her leave, she goes to bed with a male friend but when returns home to his live-in lover she is left frustrated and decides to book a trip to the south of France in search of sun and sex.

In France she flirts with almost every male she sees, including the man sitting beside her on the plane, but her her choices are poor and nothing works out as she would. Then something happens that reminds Ellen that her independence comes at a cost.

First published in 1965 this book was initially banned in Ireland because of its sexual content but by today's standards it is pretty tame. O'Brien writes beautifully about being on holiday and experiencing new things, and it was fascinating to read about a woman’ sexual desires and her hunger to live life to the fullest. But it was the sudden mood swing midway through that really made an impression on me. Suddenly the whole story took on a very different slant. It left me with very mixed feelings about Ellen, whilst she was in France I wanted to go up on her, shake by the shoulders and tell her not to be so stupid but whilst in the UK I wanted to give her a big hug. However, I have to say overall I found this an OK read rather than a particularly gripping one.
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PilgrimJess | 13 other reviews | Mar 22, 2023 |
Reading this as part of the Dublin: One City, One Book initiative. Enjoyed the second novel more than the first. Looking forward to reading the last book to see what happens Kate.
thewestwing | 9 other reviews | Aug 12, 2022 |



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½ 3.6

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