A Female Version of Angela’s Ashes

I was first introduced to Edna O’Brien’s work through the novel House of Splendid Isolation (1994) in my world literature class. I sincerely disliked this novel, and I couldn’t imagine reading any more of her work if it involved a terrorist keeping an old woman captive and the two of them talking throughout the whole book.

However, a few months later, as I browsed the fiction section of my university library just before summer break, I happened upon the O’Brien section, and there I found something that caught my eye: The Country Girls Trilogy (1987). I wanted to read that.

The country girls trilogy

I took it home and became consumed in the narrative of girls from Ireland who lived in rough homes and who were orphaned and who were forced to attend schools run by nuns. I now can’t remember the exact narrative arc or the details of the plot, but I can remember how much I enjoyed this trilogy of books that includes the novels The Country Girls (1960) The Lonely Girl (1962), later published as Girl with Green Eyes, and Girls in Their Married Bliss (1964). They reminded me of a female version of Angela’s Ashes (1996). If you liked Frank McCourt’s memoir, you’ll like this fictional account of young Irish girls trying to make it through their less-than-ideal circumstances.

I tend to like “depressing” books. I wonder if it has something to do with my Irish heritage. My great grandparents were of the Carmacks and the McMasters. I have light freckled skin that easily sunburns and a hint of red in my mousy brown hair. The Irish tend to have the best sad and lonely stories, and O’Brien’s work is no exception.

The novels follow the girls into their young adulthood, where they must struggle through work and romantic liaisons to figure out who they are. While their tales are set some fifty years ago, their struggles and emotions are still relevant. They tell a timeless story of growing up and making the best of one’s circumstances.


16 thoughts on “A Female Version of Angela’s Ashes

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      1. Yes, I usually just think to look for her occasionally and don’t find her. I’ll try the library next time I don’t have several books I’m trying to get read in a short amount of time. I haven’t read the other book you said you disliked. What did you dislike about it?

  1. I love depressing books! I don’t really know why. I think they take me places I have never been, and hope to never go. And, they give me a better understanding of the people who have been there.

    I loved Angela’s Ashes, and this one sounds good too. Two books that I might hesitate to recommend to most people, but that I will recommend to you are The Empty Room and Our Daily Bread, both by Lauren B. Davis. Very depressing. 🙂

  2. It sounds like a good series, but a little too bleak for me right now. I’m not in the mood for depressing books at the moment, although I have read plenty of them in the past. And I like Russian literature, which tends to be very depressing!

    I’ve been looking for a good read to enjoy during my winter break. I have lots of work to do on a sociolinguistic project, but I’ve made an early start on it and I’m getting there, so I want to have a week or so just relaxing and reading at Christmas time. 🙂 A couple of Barbara Kingsolver’s novels are on my TBR list at the moment; I read Flight Behavior earlier this year and next, I want to read The Bean Trees and Prodigal Summer. I also just got The Wives of Los Alamos (might be a good Literary Wives pick?) in the mail today and I’m looking forward to reading that.

    1. Ooh, that does sound like a good Literary Wives pick. Let me know if you like it. I know what you mean about having to be in the mood for depressing books. Sometimes they just aren’t a good idea! I hope you find a good read for your break. Enjoy it!

  3. Emily, nice summary. Your love of depressing books reminds me of the old joke about if you play a country song in reverse – your husband stops drinking, womanizing and returns home. May be you should read the depressing books from the back cover forward, kind of like Benjamin Button. Best wishes, BTG

      1. Kind of like in “Peggy Sue Got Married?” She went back in time and fell in love with the guy she was divorcing years later. Maybe we just need to be reminded of the reasons for past decisions. So, will it change your sorrows… maybe, maybe not.

  4. This seems great and I need a new book to try post The Goldfinch.

    I write a blog on news, views, tips and a place top pop in and browse.

    Would love to hear if you have and if you are as fond of them as I am!
    Hope you are having a wonderful Christmas season!


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