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The country girls home truths In the ForestEdna OBrien 208pp Weidenfeld A friend tells this story about Edna OBrien he was perhaps 10 at the time His father a writer of some renown had a cabin in the woods a holiday home for his large family Guests sometimes came and shared the cosy if cramped quarters including a bathroom at the far end of a kitchen where the writer and his family liked to sit at the table for leisurely meals and animated talk During one such meal my friend recalls the bathroom door being suddenly thrown open clouds of steam issuing forth and Edna OBrien stepping out naked but for the towel wrapped around her wet hair She walked calmly past the family now fallen into a profound silence through the kitchen and to her room Its one of those moments when you feel sure someone must have paused for comic effect before asking if more sugar was wanted It says so much about OBrien this naked flourish What could be more natural in the informal outdoorsy setting of a cabin in the woods And what could be more knowing In the early 1960s she burst on to the public consciousness with the same thrilling mix of innocence and worldliness The Country Girls 1960 The Lonely Girl aka Girl With Green Eyes 1962 and Girls in their Married Bliss 1963 are novels of justified fame They follow Kate Brady and Baba Brennan - compelling creations of naivety and cunning wisdom and daftness - from rural Ireland to Dublin and on to London Though the novels treatment of sexual themes would hardly turn a hair today the writing was daring for its time and it remains powerfully erotic among the sexiest prose in 20th-century English-language literature Critics hailed the newcomer from Tuamgraney in County Clare the west of Ireland for the freshness of her talent and honesty of her voice Here was a young woman
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