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text 2018-05-18 18:07
The Country Girls / Edna O'Brien
The Country Girls - Edna O'Brien

Meet Kate and Baba, two young Irish country girls who have spent their childhood together. As they leave the safety of their convent school in search of life and love in the big city, they struggle to maintain their somewhat tumultuous relationship. Kate, dreamy and romantic, yearns for true love, while Baba just wants to experience the life of a single girl. Although they set out to conquer the world together, as their lives take unexpected turns, Kate and Baba must ultimately learn to find their own way.

 

I have absolutely no idea how to rate this book. Can I say that I enjoyed it? Yes and no. Can I say that I appreciated it? Yes indeed.

It was an important book for its time—published in 1960 and showing an Ireland that doesn’t exist anymore. One where the Catholic Church and patriarchy reigned supreme and women had extremely limited choices. You could get married or become a nun. That was pretty much it, at least for the country girls. Women weren’t admitted to be sexual beings and weren’t supposed to criticize how their society worked.

Edna O’Brien writes beautifully about the naiveté of the two rural girls when they come to the big city. Kate is the artistic, romantic, intellectual girl who has idealistic visions of what life should be like. She wants to discuss literature with her dates and they only value her sexuality. She becomes involved with an older married man from her village because he offers a window into the more sophisticated world that Kate longs for. Baba, on the other hand, is far more earthy—she wants to smoke, drink, and enjoy the company of men. The two women couldn’t be more different from one another, but small communities make for strange friendships. With few people of the right age to choose from, you bond with the most compatible person available and these relationships rarely withstand leaving home.

The poverty, the alcohol problems, the repression of women--The Country Girls reveals them all. No wonder this book was denounced and banned. It was hanging out the dirty linen for the world to look at.

Ireland is a country that is definitely on my “to visit” list. I love reading books which are set there and I will definitely read more of O’Brien’s work.

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text 2018-05-10 21:34
TBR Thursday
The Country Girls - Edna O'Brien
Beneath the Sugar Sky - Seanan McGuire
The Borrower - Rebecca Makkai
Honor Among Thieves - Ann Aguirre,Rachel Caine
The State of the Art - Iain M. Banks
A Curious Beginning - Deanna Raybourn

Such a good selection of books from my library!

 

I will finish A Plague of Giants this evening and I'll continue to have Robots Vs. Fairies as my coffee break book.  Then its time to get started on this selection.

 

I have tomorrow off work--tomorrow is also the beginning of the Calgary Reads Big Book Sale.  I plan to be there when the doors open at 9 a.m. with my wishlist in hand to have first pick.  Photos for Monday!!

 

Also planning to see a performance of Julius Caesar with my Shakespeare buddy on Saturday evening.

 

Have a wonderful weekend, my BL friends.

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text 2016-12-23 12:33
Atrocity Porn
The Little Red Chairs - Edna O'Brien

It’s not a spoiler to say this novel ends with a stirring and poetic image: voices in 35 languages singing the word home in a harmonious chorus. The remainder of the novel, however, is a series of harrowing and dismal accounts of human cruelty, many of them with origins in the conflicts in the various Balkan states. These accounts, rendered by characters with distinct voices, lost their distinction over the course of the novel by virtue of their repetition and eventually blend into one long painful numbing tale. Moreover, they seem to serve no narrative purpose -- a kind of atrocity porn.

 

The novel starts off well enough: a articulate and handsome stranger named Vlad appears suddenly in a small Irish town proposing to open shop as a sex therapist until the local priest and bishop persuade him to proclaim himself a healer instead. One of the local married women fall for him and becomes pregnant. The remainder of the town is equally smitten until a few strange occurrences make them begin to suspect the stranger is not who he says he is. When his identity is uncovered, there is an episode of violence that triggers the avalanche of accounts of atrocities that make up the remainder of the novel.

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review 2016-08-29 04:16
The Little Red Chairs, by Edna O'Brien
The Little Red Chairs - Edna O'Brien

There are people who deserve second changes and others who very much do not. Edna O’Brien shows us both in The Little Red Chairs. As the novel opens, a man has come to the village of Cloonoila, Ireland, to open a New Age clinic. No one knows much about his past, but his charm opens doors everywhere—at least until the truth about his past gets out. When the metaphorical doors close, Fidelma gets caught out in the cold because she had the misfortune to fall in with with the charming man...

 

Read the rest of my review at A Bookish Type.

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review 2016-05-02 13:14
Difficult, but worth the effort!
The Little Red Chairs - Edna O'Brien

The Little Red Chairs, Edna O’Brien, author; Juliet Stevenson, narrator

In March, of 2016, Radovan Karadzik was sentenced to 40 years in prison for crimes against humanity by the United Nations Court in The Hague. He led the siege of Sarajevo, beginning in 1992 and continuing until 1995, in which thousands of Sarajevans were slaughtered by the Serbs. Karadzik, sometimes called the Butcher of Bosnia, is the very real person O’Brien has based her novel upon. Eluding capture for more than a decade, one of his alias identities was Dr. David Dragan. O’Brien makes use of that last name in her novel. In April of 2012, on the 20th anniversary of the siege of Sarajevo, thousands of empty chairs were laid out in the streets to commemorate the Sarajevan lives that were lost. The book takes its title from that event.
The author has placed Karadzik in the person of a character named Dr. Vladimir Dragan, also known as Vuk, which means wolf and is a fearsome name. The novel is an account of the time in which he supposedly eluded arrest in the fictional town of Cloonoila, in Ireland. Disguised as a healer and sex therapist, sometimes playfully called Dr. Vlad, he was intelligent, understood human nature and was quite likeable. He carried about him an air of mystery and mysticism and exhibited an unusual knowledge of many things, like the qualities of certain plants and vegetables to benefit health and a knowledge of psychiatry which helped him analyze the needs of the people. His beautiful head of white hair and his full beard, coupled with his soft-spoken presence, made him attractive to the women. One woman, Fidelma, was especially drawn to him. She confided to him, in one of their conversations, that she dearly wanted a child. The story of their relationship and its aftermath was a difficult part of the story to read, but it is used to explain, graphically, how violent and brutal the war experience was for the ordinary citizens of Sarajevo.

Myths and legends and poetry embellish the tale. Although it takes place in the present time, there is a feeling of the past pervading the story and the location of the events is often hazy. It took me awhile to figure out that part of it was in Ireland and part in England. Perhaps it was because of the allusions to Dracula and Transylvania, and a bit of the occult, that I was distracted and believed it was taking place in European countries with a more fabled history.

I found the story interesting mostly in its lyrical and descriptive presentation which was sometimes mesmerizing, owing also to the exceptional narration on the audio by Juliet Stevenson. I felt as if I was in the actual countryside observing the scenes. From some scenes, I actually wanted to avert my eyes. It was through the experiences related by many of the witnesses and victims, as they exposed the violence and brutality that had been inflicted upon them and their families during the siege, that the story truly plays out and Dragan’s (Karadzik’s) arrogant and cruel personality is imagined and presented.

At times, the number of characters was overwhelming, and at other times, the story did not knit as well together as possible, leaving odd threads hanging about, making it a bit disjointed. Still, it prompted me to do research on the beast in the book, and for that the author deserves much credit. Shining a light on a piece of history that is not known well enough is a worthy effort, even if it is in fictional form. When it is based on a true historic event which touched so many thousands of people, it deserves attention.

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