Book info

The Country Girls (2002)

The Country Girls (2002)
Author
Rating
3.61 of 5 Votes: 3
ISBN
0452283434 (ISBN13: 9780452283435)
languge
English
genre
publisher
plume
Rate book
The Country Girls (2002)
The Country Girls (2002)

About book: A beautiful probably-autobiographical wee slip of a novel which reads more like a memoir about two Irish girls between the ages of 14 and 18 in which nothing much happens except ordinary poor country life stuff, the girls being bored witless and trying to grow up, the girls being righteously disgusted about what's on offer in the back of the Irish beyond in the early 50s before Elvis and rock & roll rewrote the rules, the girls putting up with drunk parents, bitter adults and useless boys. Caithleen and Baba (Bridget really), with Caithleen the narrator perpetually told she's a right looking eedjit by Baba, who always knows what to do and who with, or thinks she does, and can't wait to be expelled from the convent school they get sent to.Baba on the convent school :"Jesus, tis hell. I won't stick it for a week. I'll drink Lysol or any damn thing to get out of here. I'd rather be a Protestant."Caithleen on the convent school food :"Caithleen Brady, why don't you eat your cabbage?" said Sister Margaret."There's a fly in it, Sister," I said. It was a slug really, but I didn't like to hurt her feelings.Later that same meal :My meat was brutal-looking and it had a faint smell as if it had gone off. I sniffed it again and knew that I couldn't eat it.(The girls all surreptitiously smuggle the grisly meat out of the school wrapped in handkerchiefs. They dump it in the local duck pond when they go on their prescribed walk.)The following sums up Caithleen and Baba's relationship :"Can you post eggs to England?" I asked Baba."Of course you can post eggs to England if you want the postman to deliver a box of sop and mush with egg white running up his sleeve. If you want to be a moron you can post eggs to England but they'll turn into chickens on the way."The other main relationship in this novel is one which provides a curious and interesting comment on the great discussion we had here on Goodreads in Spring this year about Lolita. When Caithleen is 14 years old she begins a kind-of affair with a married man. He's a family friend, age not given but he has grey hair, he is clearly besotted with her and she him. They do nothing but meet occasionally and kiss. This goes on for some years. There's no hint anywhere of him being morally wrong in any way until other people find out. Up to that point it's presented as a sweet sweet romance. The Country Girls was published five years after Lolita. Being a country girl, Caithleen almost without realising it is in love with nature, it bubbles up all the time. Here is a lovely example :There was a man mowing the Brennan's front lawn when we got out of the car. It was a cold sunny day and over under the rhododendron shrub there were crocuses in bloom. Yellow-ochre crocuses. The wind had got inside some of them and the petals had fallen down on the grass. they looked like pieces of crepe paper just thrown there. There were primroses too. A cluster of them round the root of the sycamore tree. They cut the tree because they were afraid it would fall on the house in a big wind. Mr Brennan had grown ivy round the root and had trailed it across the ugly brown stump and now there were primroses, merry little primroses, shooting up through the ivy. I had been looking at primrose leaves for seventeen years and I had never noticed before that their leaves were hairy and old and wrinkled. i kept looking at them. Always on the brink of trouble I look at something, like a tree or a flower or an old shoe, to keep me from palpitating. "Chrisake, go in," said Baba.Further comment is superfluous.

When The Country Girls (1960), The Lonely Girl (1962), and Girls in Their Married Bliss (1964) were published they were promptly condemned by the Catholic Church in Ireland, and banned by the Irish Censorship Board. Most likely because of what this trilogy had to say about the truly dismal lives of girls who grew into womanhood under the shadow of a darkly repressive church and a rural culture filled with narrow-minded ignorance, mistrust and helplessness. Nevertheless, today Edna O’Brien is regarded as one of Ireland’s most famous women novelists. Like so much of Irish literature, her novels are filled with a murky darkness that can leave a reader wondering why it’s worth even continuing to turn the pages. But I’m glad I did because in spite of her tendency to focus on the dismal side of human nature, Edna O’Brien is a first-rate writer with a knack for creating compelling characters and the talent for showing us rather than telling us what kind of life they are living. The main characters are Kate and Baba two young girls from a small village in the West of Ireland and we watch them grow up and try to escape their extremely narrow and depressing rural Catholic upbringing by moving to Dublin, eventually ending up in London. We’re not given any definitive clues as to when this all takes place – my guess is it’s somewhere between the late 40’s to the late 60’s – a time of tremendous change for women, although while both Kate and Baba do manage to escape the fate their mothers suffered, they certainly don’t end up fulfilling their dreams of becoming happily independent, sexually fulfilled women. Part of the irony of the book is that despite their attempts at achieving sexual freedom, they are every bit as dependent on men as their mothers were and with equally disastrous, though very different, consequences.tI was intrigued by the characters of Kate and Baba….two polar opposites whose friendship seemed to be driven more by necessity than affection. Kate’s passivity and indecisiveness made her the perfect target for Baba’s cynical and abusively domineering personality. The two of them seemed made for each other – in what often seemed like a very unhealthy way. And yet they needed each other at a deeper level and were always there no matter what the crisis of the moment (and there were many) happened to be. As much as I disliked both of them I couldn’t help but care about what happened to them. In spite of the how desperately they tried to escape their narrow-minded and bleak upbringing they never really did succeed because they kept making one bad decision after another and never did learn to take responsibility for any of their misguided actions. This was not an uplifting book to read. There were no heroes (almost all the men who showed up were thoroughly unlikable) and the heroines, if they could be called that, lacked anything that could qualify as being very admirable. Nevertheless it was an extremely readable book and well worth the time.
1
353
download or read online
Reviews
Núria
'Las chicas de campo' es una novelita de Edna O'Brien, que causó bastante revuelo en la Irlanda natal de la autora en el momento de su publicación, porque habla sin tapujos de cosas como el despertar de la sexualidad feminina o de relaciones de adolescentes con hombres mayores casados. Pero supongo que tampoco ayuda que haya padres borrachos y ausentes, madres presumidas y vanidosas, monjas estrictas y crueles, etc. Dicho así parece que el libro sea un melodrama bastante insufrible, pero es todo lo contrario: es cierto que todo tiene cierto tono dramático pero no es menos cierto que todo está contado con aire de comedia. Kate y Baba han sido amigas des de la infancia, por más que su amistad esté llena de envidia, egoismo, pullas y puñaladas traperas. A veces se me hacía difícil entender por qué Kate aguantaba a Baba, pero supongo que es porque no tienen a nadie más y se necesitan la una a la otra. Kate y Baba son las chicas de campo y vemos cómo se van haciendo mayores en tres escenarios distintos: primero en las granjas dónde han nacido, luego en un internado religioso sólo para chicas, y finalmente en Dublín. Confieso que tengo cierta debilidad por las novelas que se centran en chicas que crecen, que pasan de la infancia a la adolescencia, y de la adolescencia a la juventud. Pero ésta me ha parecido especialmente brillante: el estilo es fresco y vívido, los escenarios cobran vida con una facilidad asombrosa, y los personajes (tanto principales como secundarios) parecen tan reales que es como si los hubiéramos conocido en nuestra vida. Es realmente una novela llena de vida, y encima también es desenfadada y divertida. Es una novela sincera y auténtica, una verdadera delicia. Es cierto que el final es algo inconcluso, pero esto es porque es la primera parte de una trilogía, que por supuesto tengo muchas ganas de seguir leyendo.
Piperitapitta
La strada che va in città.È quella che percorrono - non solo fisicamente - Caithleen e Baba per evadere dalla cattolica campagna irlandese e arrivare fino a Dublino.Caithleen, capelli ramati e occhi verdi, introversa e romantica, e la sua amicanemica Baba, taglio sbarazzino e capelli scuri, esuberante e provocatoria, figlia di un ubriacone l'una e dello stimato veterinario del paese l'altra, rappresentano le due anime irrequiete della stessa Irlanda che, agli albori degli anni Sessanta, intrappolata fra una morale religiosa soffocante e il desiderio delle nuove generazioni di provare ogni emozione, cerca di rivendicare la propria indipendenza e il proprio spazio in un mondo chiuso fatto solo di doveri, di preghiere imposte e di pettegolezzi malevoli.Lettura parzialmente deludente, della quale si fatica a comprendere (persino leggendolo e leggendone alcune critiche) la portata rivoluzionaria che ebbe nel 1960 quando fu pubblicato; non si riesce a capire (e lo dico solo perché noi oggi siamo talmente lontani da quella realtà che l'impresa ci riesce difficilissima, e non perché non lo creda possibile, e in questo film come Magdalene e il più recente Philomena ci aiutano a collocarlo e a comprenderlo meglio) come possa aver scatenato roghi sui sagrati delle chiese, essere stato messo all'indice, aver provocato il disconoscimento dell'autrice da parte della sua famiglia; una lettura che nasconde e rivela solo parzialmente le capacità narrative dell'autrice, che affiorano non tanto nel racconto in sé, quanto piuttosto nella descrizione di una terra che riesce ad essere allo stesso tempo madre e matrigna, rigoglio e desolazione, incanto e prigione. Parte di una trilogia fortemente autobiografica - La ragazza dagli occhi verdi e Ragazze nella felicità coniugale sono gli altri due titoli - e alla luce della lettura già ultimata del secondo capitolo della storia, posso dire che che la storia e la capacità narrativa di Edna O'Brien crescono con il crescere di Caithleen e Baba, e che se in Ragazze di campagna i pensieri e la scrittura dell'autrice vanno di pari passo con l'ingenuità e l'apparente cronaca priva di emotiva partecipazione, ne La ragazza dagli occhi verdi, scritto nel 1962, lo scarto stilistico e il coinvolgimento della stessa, e con lei del lettore, sono di tutt'altro livello.
Hanne
I love O’Brien’s writing. She writes with such vivid imagery, it is impossible not to see Ireland while you are reading it. This story is set in rural western Ireland, county Clare (or Limerick perhaps) going by places mentioned in the book, a place I spent some time in the past. In fact I was one of “these eejits who come over to the Burren to look at flowers.”And yet, though some of the descriptions make my mind go on holiday and make me long for a walk in the Irish countryside, most of what is described is no holiday picture. The book was published in 1960 and tells the story of a young girl growing up with a drunken father she fears, a mother she adores but dies when she is young. Then, going off to boarding school where they are taught by the nuns that “You are not alone in your loneliness. Loneliness is no excuse for disobedience.” A lesson they both struggle with for years to come.Regarding all the issues this book quietly addresses, this Wikipedia quote sums it all up really: “O'Brien's works often revolve around the inner feelings of women, and their problems in relating to men, and to society as a whole. Her first novel, The Country Girls, is often credited with breaking silence on sexual matters and social issues during a repressive period in Ireland following World War II.The book was banned, burned and denounced from the pulpit, and O'Brien left Ireland behind.” O'Brien's ability to write vividly doesn't only work with landscapes, but also for people or events: I love the picture she paints of that girl on her bicycle going through town, fearing that perhaps her father had returned, but day-dreaming about Mr. Gentleman in his white house on the hill at the same time. Or all the smothered crying in the dormitory of the convent school on their first night there. Some characters of her short stories also make an appearance. I had to smile when I discovered that there was a help called 'Hickey' in this book as well, and there was a similar reaction when reading about the idea of 'going for tea with the Connor girls'.I don't often drink tea. But I have a craving for it whenever I read O'Brien. Even if there are no Connor Girls around here. Even if it's not happy tea.
Review will shown on site after approval.
(Review will shown on site after approval)