Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4, 1-5 October 2012
No one can accuse the BBC of not being right up to date in their
selections for the Book of the Week strand. Very favourably reviewed last month in the major quality dailies, Country
Girl is a memoir of the Irish novelist's colourful rise to prominence. From modest beginnings in County Clare, where
she grew up with a dominant mother, O'Brien moved on to a convent education, where she fell in love with a nun. After training
as a pharmacist, she was picked up by the writer Ernest Gébler, and lived as an unmarried woman, much to her mother's horror.
She and Ernest fled to the Isle of Man, but her father and some of his cronies pursued her in a private plane; the fracas
was only ended when Edna wrote a strongly worded letter to her parents, "unsparing of them in every way."
Edna moved to London, where she wrote the novel Country Girls (1960), and
became a star. Having had two boys by Gébler, she left him for good, and pursued a bohemian lifestyle, only interrupted by
the need to make money to survive. During this time she encountered stars from all walks of life; eventually moving to New
York, she did much of the same, pursuing only to reflect on the misfortunes in her life.
In this radio version, read by O'Brien herself, what emerges most tangibly is the
author's enduring zest for life. She may have had many adventures - perhaps more so than most writers - but she seems to have
emerged unscathed from all of them, and lived to tell the tale. Alternately funny, poignant, nostalgic and reflective, this
was a wonderful series of readings. The producer was Justine Willett.