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on 20 October 2011
The Girl with Green Eyes speaks of the pain of a first love mis-placed, and the loneliness and excitement of two country girls living and surviving on their wits and their charms in Dublin. Caithleen is a bookish, introspective Catholic girl who falls for an older and married Protestant man, but reviews that suggest this is the crux of the story have missed the point. The real drama lies in Caithleen and Eugene's personalities, in her ingenuousness and fears which turns out to disappoint rather than charm him, and in his own violent cynicism and insensitivity. The agony of the book is waiting for Caithleen to see Eugene as the reader sees him, whilst at the same time wishing her the happiness she longs for with him. O'Brien keeps you guessing till the very last page and you will speed through every one. The most delightful book I have read in a long time.
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on 9 May 2012
It is fifty years since Edna O'Brien published Girl With Green Eyes. It is conventional nowadays to regard the late 1950s and early 1960s as an era when sexual liberation was beginning. This may be accurate. Certainly the men in Edna O'Brien's novel seem to bear no little responsibility for any of their sexual activity, whilst the women, who are usually willing partners, take all the risks and bear all the responsibilities.

The girl with green eyes uses several versions of her name. They appear to be applied randomly. She is whoever circumstance demands. She is Cait, Caithleen, or even Kate, depending on who is speaking, or where and when the action happens. Cait was previously one of the girls who were Country Girls and the Girl With Green Eyes forms the second part of a trilogy following these young women's progress from rural assumptions to urban freedom, of sorts. In Girl With Green Eyes the young women have moved to Dublin. Events take Cait, just twenty-one, and a mere student in today's paradigm, back home to the country and then back to town again.

She has taken up with Eugene. He is older than her and, God forbid, married - even with a child. The wife lives in America - where else for the separated? - but she always seems close at hand and something of a threat. Cait has completely fallen for her male elect and news gets out. A rescue party from the country arrives to whisk her off back to the protection of home in the west, where alcoholism and threats of violence keep the peace. Her father drinks all day, but then he's a provincial sort. He may be excused, since he rules his fiefdom. He will hit anyone to protect what needs protecting and daughters are usually top of the list.

Cait describes most of her experiences in the first person. Her friend gets pregnant and has to deal with the consequences. Despite all such practices being utterly illegal at the time, everyone seems to know where to go, how to secure the service and what it costs. In general, the women involved seem utterly dependent on securing a man to provide for them, and seem to live at least half in fear of the urges that propel them. There is this ambivalence within all the relationships. The men are keen to go where they want, but generally do not negotiate on the destinations. The women seem keen to explore, but never journey on their own terms, apparently preferring to be taken along with the ride.

By the end of the book, there have been changes in Cait's life. It seems that these changes anticipate the changes that will begin for women in wider society, but in Girl With Green Eyes such progress has achieved only limited changes in women's expectations of life. The novel thus subtly mirrors what we must assume prevailed in wider society at the time. It thus presents a contemporary reader with a historical perspective that its author perhaps did not consciously consider at the time. It is surely a richer experience for this added dimension.
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on 8 March 2013
I returned to re read this book, having enjoyed the trilogy many years ago.
I enjoyed it then but would say that I enjoyed new depths that were hidden to me at a younger age.
I enjoyed the use of differing names for the main character as It reflected the different roles she was playing. I also found myself wondering if ultimately her older partner would be good or bad.My opinions changed as the plot unfolded.
It gives a wonderful insight into what it may have been like for two young girls from their particular backgrounds growing up in Ireland at that time. An interesting story with a good dose of social history thrown in !
I think it would appeal to the reader who likes a story with emotional content and a sense of real history.
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on 8 September 2000
I read this book when I was 19 which was 13 years ago and yet when one of my friends asked me to recommend my top ten books, I immediately thought of this book. Its warm and yet stark, funny and yet sad. It isn't just about growing up in Ireland, its about growing up.
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on 28 February 2016
Definitely don't read this in the Orion edition. It's such an unusual and honest book, you will want to demand high production values. A real book to live in. It's like having a dream, and some of us will be painfully reminded of our own awakenings, to sex, high culture and the life of the mind.
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on 8 September 2015
I hoped I would enjoy it as much as I enjoyed The Country Girls but I'm afraid I didn't. Edna O'Brian is a wonderful writer but somehow the storyline in this sequel was much weaker & didn't hold my attention.
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on 23 December 2012
Book two of the equally good read and a follow on of the country girls. It makes me want to read ALL of her books.....which I will!
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on 24 June 2014
I love the old kitchen sink drama's and this one is up there with the best. Ordinary girl, her mate, teenagers trying to get on. Sharing a room, thinking that all the things that don't matter at all are the most important things in life. Clothes, drink, 'love' (whatever that is). The desperation,the angst,the gradual realisation. All set in 1960's Ireland with all of it's hang up's and blatant contradictions, this is an excellent read.
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on 16 April 2015
It took a lot of courage to write this book at the time in Ireland,,especially when the country was almost ruled by the church. An enjoyable read.
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on 23 June 2015
Would thoroughly recommend the trilogy, great writing and have passed to a friend who is also enjoying Edna O`Brien.
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