Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Country Girls Trilogy by Edna O'Brien


Last summer I was lucky enough to visit Paris, which is only a three-hour train ride from our new home in southwest Germany. Of course we had to visit the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore which is on the Seine, just across from the Notre Dame Cathedral. Not only do they have a great selection of books -- all in English -- they also have a tiny collectible bookstore, and tables out front with some used books as well. One of my finds was The Country Girls Trilogy and Epilogue  by Edna O'Brien, which I chose as my 20th Century Classic selection for the Back to the Classics Challenge.

This book is actually a omnibus of three novellas: The Country Girls (1960); The Girl With Green Eyes (also known as The Lonely Girl) (1962); and Girls in Their Married Bliss (1964). The edition I read also includes the epilogue that O'Brien added in 1986. It's the two story of two young women, Caithleen and Barbara, growing up in the early 1960s. The girls are childhood best friends in a small town in western Ireland. Eventually, they move to Dublin and ultimately to London. 

The first two books are narrated by Caithleen, also known as Kate. In the first volume, Kate is a rather poor, bookish girl, sweet, but dominated by her more assertive friend Barbara (also known as Baba). Baba's dad is the local veterinarian so they have a pretty comfortable life, but Kate's father is a heavy drinker and they are struggling to hold on to the family farm which is heavily mortgaged. Kate gets a scholarship to a convent school, and Baba attends as well (though she makes it clear she is NOT on a scholarship). It's mostly the story of their teenage years adjusting to the convent school, girlhood crushes, and friendships. Baba is the more dominant in the relationship and the way she treated Kate sometimes made me really uncomfortable, but ultimately, Baba and Kate are always there for one another. 

In the second volume, The Girl with Green Eyes, the girls have moved to Dublin, and Baba is mostly in the background as Kate is navigating her first real love affair with an older man, to the displeasure of her relatives and all the people back home who decide to get involved. It was appalling to me how these outsiders felt they had a right to interfere. I've never lived in small town but I can't imagine everyone knowing my business. 

The third volume alternates between the third person story of Kate, and Baba's story, told in her own voice. Baba's narration is darkly funny but ultimately, I found this book really sad. As late as the 1960s, women in Ireland (and England) had so few rights, it was infuriating. The book is well-written and the characters really came alive for me, but it was quite depressing. There were a few funny moments but parts are quite heartbreaking.

I'm counting this as my Classic Set in a Place I'd Like to Visit (Ireland) for the Back to the Classics Challenge and also my first book for the European Reading Challenge 2017. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Challenge Link-Up Post: Russian Classic


Please link your reviews for your Russian Classic here.  This is only for the Russian Classic category.  If you do not have a blog, or somewhere public on the internet where you post book reviews, please write your mini-review/thoughts in the comments section.  If you like, you can include the name of your blog and/or the title of the book in your link, like this: "Karen K. @ Books and Chocolate (Crime and Punishment)."

Challenge Link-Up Post: Award-Winning Classic


Please link your reviews for your Award-Winning Classic here.  This is only for the Award- Winning Classic category. It could be the Newbery Award, the Pulitzer Prize, the Prix Goncourt -- any literary prize. Please include the name of the prize the book won in your review.

If you do not have a blog, or somewhere public on the internet where you post book reviews, please write your mini-review/thoughts in the comments section.  If you like, you can include the name of your blog and/or the title of the book in your link, like this: "Karen K. @ Books and Chocolate (The Age of Innocence). "


Challenge Link-Up Post: Romance Classic


Please link your reviews for your Romance Classic here.  This is only for the Romance Classic category.  It can have a happy or sad ending, but their must be a strong romantic element to the story.

   
If you do not have a blog, or somewhere public on the internet where you post book reviews, please write your mini-review/thoughts in the comments section.  If you like, you can include the name of your blog and/or the title of the book in your link, like this: "Karen K. @ Books and Chocolate (Gone with the Wind)." 




Challenge Link-Up Post: Classic Set in a Place You'd Like to Visit


Please link your reviews for your Classic Set in a Place You'd Like to Visit here.  This is only for the Classic Set in a Place You'd Like to Visit category. If you like, include the place (if it isn't obvious) and why you'd like to visit in your review -- I'm sure readers would like to know!

If you do not have a blog, or somewhere public on the internet where you post book reviews, please write your mini-review/thoughts in the comments section.  If you like, you can include the name of your blog and/or the title of the book in your link, like this: "Karen K. @ Books and Chocolate (Death on the Nile). "


Challenge Link-Up Post: Classic About an Animal or Animal in the Title


Please link your reviews for your Classic About an Animal or With an Animal in the Title here.  This is only for the Classic About an Animal or Animal in the Title category.  The animal can be real, imaginary, or metaphorical. If the animal is not obvious, please clarify in your post. 

If you do not have a blog, or somewhere public on the internet where you post book reviews, please write your mini-review/thoughts in the comments section.  If you like, you can include the name of your blog and/or the title of the book in your link, like this: "Karen K. @ Books and Chocolate (To Kill a Mockingbird)."




Challenge Link-Up Post: Classic with a Number in the Title


Please link your reviews for your Classic with a Number in the Title here.  This is only for the Classic with a Number in the Title category. It must be an actual number (i.e., A Tale of Two Cities; Fahrenheit 451; The Nine Tailors.) Roman numerals (i.e., Henry V) are fine, but ordinal numbers such as "first" and amounts such as "half" or "none" are not numbers; therefore, they do not count.

If you do not have a blog, or somewhere public on the internet where you post book reviews, please write your mini-review/thoughts in the comments section.  If you like, you can include the name of your blog and/or the title of the book in your link, like this: "Karen K. @ Books and Chocolate (Three Men in a Boat)."


Challenge Link-Up Post: Gothic or Horror Classic


Please link your reviews for your Gothic or Horror Classic here.  This is only for the Gothic or Horror Classic category.    If you do not have a blog, or somewhere public on the internet where you post book reviews, please write your mini-review/thoughts in the comments section.  If you like, you can include the name of your blog and/or the title of the book in your link, like this: "Karen K. @ Books and Chocolate (Rebecca)." 

Challenge Link-Up Post: Classic Published Before 1800


Please link your reviews for your Classic Published Before 1800 here.  This is only for the Classic Published Before 1800 category.  All books in this category must have been published before the year 1800.  Plays and epic poems are acceptable for this category.   If you do not have a blog, or somewhere public on the internet where you post book reviews, please write your mini-review/thoughts in the comments section.  If you like, you can include the name of your blog and/or the title of the book in your link, like this: "Karen K. @ Books and Chocolate (Candide)." 





Challenge Link-Up Post: Classic in Translation


Please link your reviews for your Classic in Translation here.  This is only for the Classic in Translation category.  These should all be classics that were originally written in a language other than your primary language; that is, if you are a native English speaker, it should be a classic written in another language other than English.  If you are not a native English speaker, it could be in English (or any other language, other than your primary language). If you want to read the book in its original language, that's fine too!

If you do not have a blog, or somewhere public on the internet where you post book reviews, please write your mini-review/thoughts in the comments section.  If you like, you can include the name of your blog and/or the title of the book in your link, like this: "Karen K. @ Books and Chocolate (Les Miserables)."