The Country Girls

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The Country Girls
First edition cover, showing Baba (left) and Cait (right)
Author Edna O'Brien
Country Ireland
Language English
Series Country Girls trilogy
Genre Bildungsroman, feminist literature
Set in Western Ireland and Dublin, late 1950s
Published 1960 Hutchinson
Media type Hardcover 8vo
Pages 223
ISBN 0752881167
OCLC 3365816
LC Class A439530
Followed by The Lonely Girl

The Country Girls is Edna O'Brien's first novel. Released in 1960, it is often credited with breaking silence on sexual matters and social issues during a repressive period in Ireland following World War II.[1] and was later adapted into film. The Irish censor banned the book, shaming her parents; the family's parish priest publicly burned copies of the novel.[2] She won the Kingsley Amis Award in 1962 for The Country Girls.

Plot synopsis[edit]

Caithleen "Kate" Brady and Bridget "Baba" Brennan are two young Irish country girls who have spent their childhood together. As they leave the safety of their convent school in search of life and love in the big city, they struggle to maintain their somewhat tumultuous relationship. Cait, dreamy and romantic, yearns for true love, while Baba just wants to experience the life of a single girl. Although they set out to conquer the world together, as their lives take unexpected turns, Cait and Baba must ultimately learn to find their own way.


The Irish censorship board banned The Country Girls upon its publication.


The novel is an exploration of the trials and tribulations of two friends set against the backdrop of 1950s Ireland, showing the influence of James Joyce in the humane attention to detail and thought and the rather lyrical prose of the narrator Cait.

The ending where Cait is betrayed by Mr Gentleman can be considered as a call by O'Brien for a reconsideration of the values of Irish/Catholic society. O'Brien helped to launch a new generation of Irish writers more focused on the demands and values of society, such as Anne Enright, Nuala O'Faolain and Colm Tóibín.


  1. ^ Lewis, Peter (11 October 2012). "Paying the Price for Passion". London: Daily Mail Online. Retrieved 27 January 2013. n the Ireland of the decades just after the war, feelings were there to be repressed, like sin...Then along came Edna, giving rebellious voice to the feelings of women, who had always kept the place going while the men drank themselves helpless, and who had always kept quiet as they were expected to. 
  2. ^ Cooke, Rachel (6 February 2011). "Edna O'Brien: A writer's imaginative life commences in childhood". The Observer. London. Retrieved 6 February 2011. 

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