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Down by the River: Complete & Unabridged Audio Cassette – Audiobook, Jun 1997

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Product details

  • Audio Cassette
  • Publisher: ISIS Audio Books (Jun. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753101890
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753101896
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Book Description

A controversial novel which challenges the moral standing of the Roman Catholic church in Ireland --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Edna O'Brien is the author of 24 books. She was the winner of the 1993 Writers' Guild Prize for Fiction. In 2001 her novel, In the Forest - about a brutal murder on the west coast - caused a furore throughout Ireland and was the subject of a BBC Omnibus film. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 4 Oct. 2009
Format: Paperback
I feel it's not too dramatic or extreme to say that in this book Edna O'Brien rewrites the history of women in Ireland. Based on a series of true incidents, the book tells the story of Mary, a 14 year-old girl who is raped by her father, becomes pregnant and ultimately finds herself the cause celebre of the whole country when a friend of the family tries to help her obtain an abortion in England. She is hounded by anti-abortionists, and the case goes all the way to the High Court of Ireland.

Down by the River mirrors the real events of a very similar case in almost hallucinogenic detail and it does so not by denouncing one side or the other, though the anti-abortionists are much the most strident and scarier faction, but by describing events with an almost wistful inevitability, the very opposite of the sensationalist scrum concocted by the media. For her pains, O'Brien's book was banned in Ireland. She had raised the question of how change might be brought about for women at the mercy of their biology, and of how a compassionate church could contemplate sustaining the status quo.

The book does the issue justice, telling a profound and deeply moving story with harrowing and courageous authenticity. Whichever side you are on regarding abortion, the novel asks questions of human morality, ethics and jurisprudence that are not easily answered.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By DubaiReader VINE VOICE on 30 Aug. 2006
Format: Paperback
Too much emphasis on lyrical descriptions and a confusing structure spoilt a novel that had the potential to be fascinating.

It is based on the true story of a young girl who caused uproar in Ireland and the Catholic church because she wanted to travel to England for an abortion.

Mary is under 14 when her father rapes her and she concieves his child. Her bewilderment and shame are well described as the whole of Ireland gets involved in the case. Both the pro and anti abortion lobies are represented, although those advocating the baby's right to live are painted in an extreme and fairly unsympathetic light.

The other main character, the father, is a weak man; expert with animals and proud of his daughter, yet unable to curb his sexual needs. I didn't feel much sympathy for him, only anger.

The story was thought provoking, but I would not recommend the book because it lacked flow and 'readability'.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I only read the first chapter. She is one of my favourite writers. While I acknowledge it was well written I knew
the subject matter would upset me and haunt me. Maybe that was the intention of the writer. I gave it away.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Deavastatingly Shocking Tale 9 Dec. 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
They say the curse of the Irish is the drink. But to understand your own brutal, beautiful country as well as Edna O'Brien understands hers must be a bigger curse by far. There's no way a blessed person could have written a novel as shimmering, as ruthless and as devastating as "Down by the River": it's evidence of something more than mere talent, or even genius, at work. O'Brien's gifts are magnificent and terrifying, along the lines of stigmata and clairvoyance -- the kind of gifts that mark you.
Inspired by a case in Ireland, in which a 14-year-old rape victim was forbidden by the courts to leave the country to obtain an abortion, "Down by the River" is the story of Mary MacNamara. After being raped by her father, Mary conceives his child. A sympathetic neighbor brings her to England for an abortion, but the authorities haul them back, cowing them with their ugly threats. Mary refuses to name the baby's father, and her case becomes a cause that turns her own friends and neighbors against her. She's seen as both a villain and an object of sanctimonious condescension in the Catholic community.
That community's cruelty is the bitter, driving force of the book -- but it's Mary's suffering and loneliness that are at the heart of it. After a street musician befriends her (he lets her stay at his flat for a few days and buys her a cheap sweater), she writes him a letter: "I nearly died when you gave me that jumper. You shouldn't have. Turquoise is my favorite color. There are two kinds of alone, there's the kind which you are and the kind which I am. Your alone is beautiful, it's rich." It's a passage that takes you apart, the way a teenager's breathless enthusiasm is crushed by the young woman's overwhelming sense of fear and isolation.
O'Brien never takes the easy way out: not even Mary's father is painted as a monster. She describes how he helps birth a colt -- reaching into the mare's womb and coaxing it out by both brute strength and force of will, saving the mother's life in the process -- with such grace and tenderness that even against your will, you feel yourself almost, almost, growing to understand him.
But O'Brien doesn't hold back when it comes to her wrath at the Catholic Church, and at the small-minded Irish who slavishly follow it at the expense of their own humanity. O'Brien has lived in London for more than 20 years -- she isn't welcome in her own country, for obvious reasons -- and yet Ireland will never leave her. Her stories work on us exactly the way her homeland has worked on her. They can stare you down and tear you apart like a wolf -- and then, miraculously and tenderly, bring you back to life again, stronger and better than before. With "Down by the River," O'Brien marks us as well: it's the kind of book that takes days, maybe weeks, to shake.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
"We all love this country in our own crooked way . . . " 22 July 2006
By Cami - Published on
Format: Paperback
I'm not here to recount the plot. I just wanted to say that this novel IS worth sticking with, even though O'Brien's style may not be for everyone. Honestly, I was really put off during the first 50 pgs. or so. As some other reviewers have mentioned, it's often difficult to tell which character is speaking in this novel. Sometimes, I'd find myself going back to prior chapters just to see if the character I was reading about had been introduced earlier. As the novel goes on, more and more characters are introduced, some who are only discussed for a mere two or three pages. This may sound annoying, but the pace of the novel is so intense and the story so riveting that I truly forgot about these "pet peeves" after awhile. I raced through this book in about three days, but if you're a fast reader, you could probably devour it in one sitting.

Any writer who can weave a story in such a compelling way that its characters infuriate me is a great writer in my opinion. O'Brien perfectly depicts religious fanatics, stubborn Irish citizens who label a rape victim as a whore, and the community members outraged by the rape and the events caused by it. We also get glimpses into the mind of Mary, the victim whose unwanted pregnancy has caused such a stir. This gives the reader a chance to look at the issues from all angles, and it makes for a truly well-rounded reading experience. I learned of O'Brien's work through an Irish Lit. class in college, a class during which we only read her short stories. Just as O'Brien's short stories don't disappoint, neither does her novel. I highly recommend it!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Irish hypocrisy revealed 11 Feb. 2003
By Marsha E. Lytle - Published on
Format: Paperback
Mary McNamara's life in rural western Ireland is that of a typical young teenager until one day while she is on a walk on their land, her father violates the most sacred bond between parent and child and rapes her. Unable to tell anyone, she keeps the secret, except for her diary entries. When the abuse results in an unwanted pregnancy, it precipitates a national crises when she is taken to England for an abortion.
Based on real events, this novel accurately portrays how a Catholic nation can be inflamed over a cause such at this even while the morality of the citizens is in decline as evidenced by premarital sex, living in sin, affairs, and out of wedlock births.
While I enjoyed the story of Mary's plight, the novel itself was often times confusing with so many characters and shifts in focus so that after awhile you sort of lost track of who was who. By the end I was thinking it could have been told in a much more straightforward manner in less pages.
Mary's father, James, the obvious villan in this book, is a tragic figure. He seems a contradictory character, gentle with his livestock, proud of his daughter's accomplishments at school, and missing her presence, even while he violates her. Without a wife to serve his needs, it seems Mary is to fulfill that role on all counts. In the end it is hard to feel much more than pity for this pathetic nature.
Mary, for being all of fourteen, seems stronger than either of her parents in enduring the many hardhsips and allowing herself to be used by different fractions for their own purposes. It is hard to imagine what her life would be like afterwards, though the last pages try to give us a glimpse of her new life.
8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Tries too hard. 25 Jun. 1999
By TJ - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book was a disappointment to me, primarily because of several annoying techniques used by the author. First of all, she tries too hard to be poetic and the result is a book that ties itself up in knots of extraneous text. The story suffers from an excess of flowery verse and a lack of direct language. At times we read sentence after sentence which contain no verbs. (e.g., "Soft morning crisp. Starched low-lying lawns ...") At the beginning of one chapter we do not encounter a verb until the 12th sentence.
At other times, the story becomes confusing because the author refuses to call characters or items by name, preferring to refer to them as "he", "she", or "it" when these words could easily apply to several characters or objects. For example, instead of saying "Mary picked up the letter", the author will simply say "She picked it up", and the reader is forced to become Sherlock Holmes just to figure out what the author is talking about. Who is "she"?? What is "it"??? I asked these questions to myself many times while reading this book. Perhaps the author thought such imprecise references sounded more artistic. I was not impressed.
In addition to the flawed writing style, the story itself is rather narrow. Only one character (Mary) is treated as a sympathetic figure, the others being dull and one-dimensional. It was a struggle for me to finish the book, since I really didn't care about most of the characters.
This book could have been much better since the subject matter is timely and intriguing. It's a shame the author overreached so badly.
Hauntingly poetic telling of incest, death and choices. 7 Jun. 1997
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
O'Brien relates Mary's plight of being raped and made pregnant by her father. Her desperation to abort the pregnancy is made difficult because of the anti-abortionists and her age (14). "Down by the River" is a poetic telling of harsh, ugly realities
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