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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars41
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 12 November 2013
This trilogy represents some of the very best of 20th century Irish fiction. Ireland in the late 50's early 60's was not a pleasant estate. The influence of the church in every aspect of life for the ordinary citizen was omnipresent and stifling. Primary/secondary education, not to mention in-patient hospital care, social services, orphanages, adoption and elderly care were all abrogated by the state to the church. Present day presumptions of entitlement in "reviewing" this work are just irrelevant. Edna presents the suffocating reality as it was then. Hers is the terse voice of unafraid, uncompromising dissent from the warm blanket of "sin" and ultimate forgiveness, of proud ignorance under which the Eire pretended it might be able fight off the evils of the television generation - ie knowledge that it doesn't have to be this way.
Her early works are beautifully written, speak of an awkward, guiltless awakening of self-awareness completely at odds with "country" values and the stupidity of ingrained, hymn-singing prejudice. As works of literature they will endure, despite, or perhaps, because of, the carefully observed poetry of the mundane.
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on 26 March 2015
I can't remember when I bought this book (maybe in my early-twenties) but I do recall attempting to read it in the past and abandoning it pretty quickly. I'm not sure why - maybe it wasn't what I was expecting at the time. Anyway, I'm really glad that I finally got around to revisiting 'The Country Girls' because I found it a very easy and enjoyable read.

The first thing to say is that it's a short novel but this is no bad thing as you get into the story very quickly and the main characters are very striking. While 'The Country Girls' is set in a rural Ireland belonging to a bygone age, the relationship between Caithleen and Baba seems very modern, particularly in Baba's relentless dominance and abuse of her more socially vulnerable friend. I enjoyed the fact that Baba was a far less sympathetic character than Caithleen.

I felt that the most intriguing aspect of 'The Country Girls' was the ambiguity surrounding the first person narrator, Caithleen's point of view. As this is the first book in a trilogy, perhaps one needs to read the later books to gain a clearer perspective on Caithleen's real feelings about certain aspects of the past. But from this book alone, I was left feeling unsure about Caithleen's view of her relationship with 'Mr Gentleman,' an older, solvent, married man. The relationship reads as having been exploitative and yet the narrator's presentation of it appears naïve as Caithleen's own adolescent interpretation of it was at the time. So the narrator doesn't appear to be distanced from this episode, whereas she does seem to have an adult perspective on most of the rest of the story she tells. I don't know whether this is a flaw or a strength of the novel but it was something that left the narrative feeling unresolved.

Overall, I would recommend 'The Country Girls' to anyone looking for a relatively short but absorbing read.
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on 26 September 2013
A beautifully written, evocative description of life in Ireland before the 'economic boom' years. Very believable,particularly the first few chapters taking place in the country.
I was less impressed with the description of the last chapters about the Dublin life of the two friends.
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on 18 January 2013
I have been meaning to read this book for years. It did not disappoint. It is a snapshot of Ireland, which we hope has long gone. Very well written and fascinating to read.
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on 14 August 2012
I have just re-read 'The Country Girls' (in the Orion/Phoenix edition) as I have included it in one of my recommended reading lists. I was amazed to find that every time I picked it up, I would come across typographical errors. I found this extremely irritating, and wonder how I can promote a historical and literary fiction (Orion Group's description) title with so many mistakes in it. Even the blurb on the back cover is incorrect, setting the book in the early 1960s, when it is apparent from the text (assuming that is correct) that it is the early 1950s. 1950s would be much more likely than the 1960s as the book's original publication date is 1960 and it doesn't read as though it is set in the future. (This misinformation has also translated to booksellers' descriptions). I hope Orion now has some better proof-readers in place!
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I am quite a fast reader. I tend to plough through books like people eat sweets. There are some books however that need to be savoured, and The Country Girls is one. This novel is Irish without all the melodrama of Joyce, but with the same lyrical dexterity and wonderful language, to me, anyway. I loved it. It is funny and sad and grim and brilliant and the characters were a joy. In a lot of ways it reminded me of the plays of Enda Walsh. The richly imagined world peopled by the most eccentric characters and all so full of life they just leap out at you.
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on 14 July 2009
Sometimes this book reminded me of the comedy series "Father Ted" with its Irish sayings and Catholic innocence.
The story moves along really well. The writing is lyrical. It perfectly illustrates the complexities of female relationships. It's set in the 1960s, around my mother's coming of age years, and it really reminds me of the stories she tells of her girlhood.
Why only four stars? I didn't feel the story was enough, I needed more. But it is part of a trilogy, and I'm yet to read the others, so hopefully I won't be disappointed.
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on 4 August 2015
Very well written and well-drawn characters. The early part of the book about the main protagonist's childhood and education was un-put-downable, but then the novel faded. The promises that she would rise above her background and associates disappeared in an unresolved ending, which showed no advancement of the story, which I found disappointing.
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on 24 April 2010
Having read the second in the trilogy (or is there four now?) first I was familiar with the characters already and intrigued to read of the events which had oft been referred to. In The Country Girls Edna O'Brien deftly paints a picture of rural Ireland and what it was like for a young girl to grow up there. All manner of quirky, interesting and sometimes desperately sad characters are brought to form with wonderfully poetic prose - although it is not so flowery that it becomes dull and tedious to read. It is essentially a coming of age story told through the eyes of the young Caithleen but it is elegantly told and even the more dubiously natured characters have a great depth to them and in some cases even charm. Having now followed Caithleen's journey from the start I look forward to reading Girl with Green Eyes again and the others that follow.

This isn't a book I would normally pick up and read (the convent school section of the book didn't appeal but was surprisingly enjoyable and actually quite a short part of the story) but I am so glad I did as it made my daily tedious bus journey to work so much more enjoyable.
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on 2 December 2015
This book has made an impact on me and I want to read more of Edna O'Brian's books. It highlights the amazing strength and resilience of the human spirit in the face of a grindingly hard upbringing almost completely lacking in emotional support.
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