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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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review 2015-08-11 05:18
The Lonely Girl (The Country Girls #2)
The Lonely Girl - Edna O'Brien

Also published as Girl with Green Eyes, The Lonely Girl is the second book in Edna O'Brien's Country Girls trilogy. Both books one and two are on the 1001 books list.


In The Lonely Girls, Caithleen and Baba are grown up. They are renting a room in Dublin, working, and trying to meet men. And their relationship has not really changed. Baba is the bossy one who finds parties to crash and meets men seemingly effortlessly. Caithleen follows along. And, as Baba finds shocking—it is Caithleen who attracts a man.


Caithleen may be an adult, but she has not grown up. She is still the daughter of her alcoholic father and deceased mother. She wants to please. She will do anything to avoid upsetting anyone. And she can't seem to make her own decisions, as she changes her opinions to the person she is with. And this is not the way to have a relationship.



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review 2015-05-15 03:41
The Love Object
The Love Object: Selected Stories of Edna O'Brien - Edna O'Brien

3.5 Edna O'Brien is an author I have always wanted to read but until now never have. Her first book Country Girls was banned in Ireland upon its release for its depiction of female sexuality. Her writing is elegantly descriptive and though their are a few stories I didn't really care for, there were some I absolutely loved.

The rug was one, a rug is unexpectedly delivered to a family, or is a beautiful purple rig and they spend time trying to guess who has sent this rug that they now all loves to them. There is of course s catch but it would a spoiler to tell you the rest. In another a young country girl is thrilled to be invited to her first party, but finds out things are not as she thought. And of course the mother, daughter story which I am always drawn too.

A wonderful collection of stories of want, love and failed expectations. Now I need to get my hands on Country Girls.

ARC from publisher.

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