FSG is proud to reveal the cover for our reissue of Edna O’Brien’s The Country Girls Trilogy and Epilogue, a collection of three of the most beloved, revolutionary, and notorious Irish novels of the 20th century, with a new introduction by Eimear McBride, author of A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing. The story follows school friends Kate and Baba, who move from 1950s rural Ireland to Dublin and London in search of liberation from the punishing Catholic morality of their homeland. James Woods writes that these early novels “have retained their deeper, authentic radicalism: they commit themselves to exploring the lives of women as gambles on freedom and acts of rebellion.” Eimear speaks to this legacy in her introduction: “O’Brien went away and fashioned something wholly her own.” And it’s true; O’Brien is—and always has been—a kind of radical, both in her writing and in her unapologetic stance as a mouthpiece for an honest female experience.
When The Country Girls was first published in 1960, the novel brought O’Brien as much notoriety as it did fame. Because of her candid portrayal of infidelity and female desire, The Country Girls and O’Brien’s next six novels were banned in Ireland. This didn’t stop O’Brien from writing (her works include seventeen novels, nine collections of short stories, five plays, two biographies, and two volumes of poetry), and it didn’t stop her from being considered “the greatest living woman writing in English” by Philip Roth and other contemporaries.
Edna O’Brien was only thirty years old when The Country Girls was published. Forty-seven years later, the novel and its sequels remain a hallmark of feminist fiction.
Edna O’Brien is the author of more than twenty-five books, including, most recently, The Little Red Chairs. Born in County Clare, Ireland, she now lives in London.