|Edna O'Brien wrote Country Girl (1960) and my irish/anglo-phil girlfriend said of it, "It's a classic, not like those other books you read, a real classic that people have read."|
Country Girls (1960)
by Edna O'Brien
The experience of young people in the Ireland of the 1950s and 60s seems as alien as any African or Asian young person during that time period when you compare it to the experience of English or American teens. Despite being in the vanguard of 20th century nationalist movements and hosting a vibrant intellectual culture for hundreds of years, Ireland was, for almost all young people, a very un-free place, more like a Communist country than a western democracy. The books written by Irish authors about young people in Ireland during the 1950s reflect this lack of freedom, and Country Girls is a great example, about the experience of two adolescent women in rural Ireland. Caithleen is the narrator and her best friend/tormentor is Baba. Both come from an "upper middle class" environment, though Caithleen's father is an alcoholic failure who leaves her adrift when her Mom accidentally dies in the first 50 pages.
Caithleen attend and are expelled from a strict Catholic boarding school, and the third act has them in London, where Baba goes to school and Caithleen takes a job at a grocery store. O'Brien keeps a lively pace, and Caithleen and Baba are drawn as essentially modern girls, albeit ones stuck in rural Ireland in the late 1950s.