The Country Girls

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The Country Girls
First edition cover, showing Baba (left) and Cait (right)
AuthorEdna O'Brien
SeriesCountry Girls trilogy
GenreBildungsroman, feminist literature
Set inWestern Ireland and Dublin, late 1950s
Published1960 Hutchinson
Media typeHardcover 8vo
LC ClassA439530
Followed byThe Lonely Girl 

The Country Girls is a trilogy by Irish author Edna O'Brien. It consists of three novels: The Country Girls (1960), The Lonely Girl (1962), and Girls in Their Married Bliss (1964). The trilogy was re-released in 1986 in a single volume with a revised ending to Girls in Their Married Bliss and addition of an epilogue. The Country Girls, both the trilogy and the novel, is often credited with breaking silence on sexual matters and social issues during a repressive period in Ireland following World War II and was adapted into a 1983 film. All three novels were banned by the Irish censorship board and faced significant public disdain in Ireland.[1] O'Brien won the Kingsley Amis Award in 1962 for The Country Girls.

The Country Girls (1960)[edit]

Plot synopsis[edit]

Caithleen "Cait/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 Lonely Girl (1962)[edit]

Girl with Green Eyes is a 1964 British drama film, which Edna O'Brien adapted from her own novel, The Lonely Girl. It tells the story of a young, naive country girl's romance with a sophisticated older man. Eventually, Kate becomes unhappy as Eugene does not share her Catholic religious beliefs, his friends do not regard Kate seriously, and he continues to correspond with his estranged wife, for whom he still has some feelings. Kate finally leaves Eugene and returns to Baba, who is packing to move to London and invites Kate to come along. Kate hopes that Eugene will come after her and ask her to return to him, but instead he sends word through Baba that their breakup is probably for the best. Sadly, Kate departs for London with Baba, where she gets over her heartbreak and meets "different people, different men".

Girls in Their Married Bliss (1964)[edit]

The third and final book of the trilogy, this novel begins in London several years after the end of The Lonely Girl. It marks a significant shift in style from the first two books, as it is now narrated in part by Baba in the first person, while Kate's sections are narrated in the third person. See more details on the page for Girls in Their Married Bliss.


The Irish censorship board banned The Country Girls upon its publication, adding it to a list of over 1600 books banned in Ireland under the Censorship of Publications Act, 1929.[2][3]

The public response in Ireland was largely negative as a result of the sexual imagery and national critique throughout the trilogy. Religious and political figures took particular offense. Archbishop McQuaid and then Minister for Justice, Charlie Haughey decided that "the book was filth and should not be allowed inside any decent home."[4] The trilogy was also subject to multiple public book burnings, including one in O'Brien's hometown of Tuamgraney.[5]

The Irish response to the trilogy, and the trilogy's international success despite this reaction, are frequently cited as key moments in the history of female writers in Ireland. According to Irish novelist Anne Enright, "O'Brien is the great, the only, survivor of forces that silenced and destroyed who knows how many other Irish women writers, and her contradictions – her evasions even – must be regarded as salutary."[6]

On 5 November 2019 BBC News included The Country Girls on its list of the 100 most influential novels.[7]


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 Catholic values in Irish society. O'Brien helped to launch a new generation of Irish writers more focused on the demands and values of society, such as Enright, Nuala O'Faolain and Colm Tóibín.


  1. ^ Cooke, Rachel (6 February 2011). "Edna O'Brien: A writer's imaginative life commences in childhood". The Observer. London. Retrieved 6 February 2011.
  2. ^ Drisceoil, Donal Ó (2005). "'The best banned in the land': Censorship and Irish Writing since 1950". The Yearbook of English Studies. 35: 146–160. ISSN 0306-2473. JSTOR 3509330.
  3. ^ Oireachtas, Houses of the (1942-11-18). "Censorship of Publications—Motion. – Seanad Éireann (3rd Seanad) – Wednesday, 18 Nov 1942 – Houses of the Oireachtas". Retrieved 2019-03-05.
  4. ^ O'Brien, Edna (2014). Country Girl: A Memoir. New York, NY: Back Bay Books, Little Brown and Company. p. 152. ISBN 978-0316122719. OCLC 857879411.
  5. ^ Drisceoil, Donal Ó (2005). "'The best banned in the land': Censorship and Irish Writing since 1950". The Yearbook of English Studies. 35: 156. ISSN 0306-2473. JSTOR 3509330.
  6. ^ Enright, Anne (2012-10-12). "Country Girl by Edna O'Brien – review". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-03-05.
  7. ^ "100 'most inspiring' novels revealed by BBC Arts". BBC News. 2019-11-05. Retrieved 2019-11-10. The reveal kickstarts the BBC's year-long celebration of literature.

External links[edit]