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Sacrifice of the innocentsIn the ForestEdna OBrienWeidenfeld Nicholson 1699 pp217Edna OBriens early novels were greeted by two sounds - murmurs of approval and the crackle of flames The Lonely Girl appeared in 1962 with some softly-spoken words of publicity Miss OBrien has an unusual gift for treating important things in a seemingly casual way while a priest in her home village made a bonfire of his parishioners copies of The Country GirlsForty years on not much has changed OBrien is still after critical approval and still surprised to find herself engulfed by flames In the Forest has been welcomed by her old friend Harold Pinter as a masterpiece while arousing a critical storm in Ireland In the novel she recreates the horrific events of 1994 when a young mother her son and a priest were murdered in County Clare Their murderer was a local man with a history of psychiatric problemsIn the novel the mother is Eily Ryan and her murderer Michen OKane the Kinderschrek psychotic since childhood and brutalised by a series of young offenders institutions where he is abused by priests and gang-raped by inmates Eily on the other hand embodies the most naive kind of innocence - she lives in a tumbledown cottage in a field where she and Maddie her three-year-old create an old-fashioned bohemian anarchyOKane becomes obsessed with her watches her through the window at night names her his goat-girl and after kidnapping her and Maddie takes them to the woods where he holds them at gunpoint rapes her and kills them bothThe novel is powered by the fateful dynamic between Eily and OKane This reaches its crux in a long gripping chapter In the Forest which follows them from OKanes unnanounced appearance in her kitchen to her death in the wood Maddie clinging to her their desperate cries as one going up to the trees and down to the wisps of dew that have outlived the morning rising
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