Country Girl by Edna O'Brien
Like Rupert Everett's memoir last month, our June Non-Fiction choice has a candid tone and an extraordinary cast of characters.
Edna O'Brien's Country Girl opens in 1930, in a ramshackle but relatively grand house called Drewsboro, in County Clare where O'Brien was born. Her family, once rich but now impoverished by her father's gambling, struggle to maintain standards.
O'Brien is sent to a convent, where she falls in love with a nun; and then moves to Dublin to train as a pharmacist. She is seduced by the writer Ernest Gébler who convinces her to flee to the Isle of Man - only for her father and cronies, including a Cistercian monk, to follow in a private plane. She severs herself from her family completely and moves to the suburbs of London. Here, she lives a life ruled by Gébler, even stricter than the one she had escaped.
While enduring this rather harsh and lonely existence, O'Brien writes her novel The Country Girls and becomes a literary superstar. The less-successful Gébler is mad with envy and O'Brien leaves him, winning a custody battle over their two sons and embarking on a bohemian life.
During the early 1960s, O'Brien sleeps with poets, takes LSD with RD Laing and Sean Connery, and throws wild parties at her big house in Chelsea. The book rings out with the faces of the age: Paul McCartney, Gore Vidal, Princess Margaret, Jackie Onassis.
O'Brien's literary powers gives the book a forceful rhythm and her imagery is both precise and lyrical. Throughout there is a pervading sense of her contradictory character: beautiful, talented, controversial and brave, yet unable to drive, or swim, or be alone.
Most of all, she is a survivor, particularly of the oppressive institutions and beliefs that suppressed so many of her contemporaries. For that reason alone, hers is a remarkable story.
Booker-prize winner (and previous Mumsnet Bookcub webchatter) Anne Enright has written an excellent review.
You can also watch Edna talk about her childhood and writing her memoir in a fascinating interview with her editor.
Faber has 50 copies to give to Mumsnetters - to claim yours, please fill in your details below. We'll post on the thread when all the copies have gone. If you're not lucky enough to bag one of the free books, you can get a paperback or Kindle version.
This giveaway has now closed, but you can buy Country Girl
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Last updated: about 3 years ago