The country girls trilogy | Edna O’Brien

As a trilogy, this was like going out for a big meal. The starter’s amazing, the main course is ho-hum, and you wish you hadn’t ordered dessert as well. The country girls is a joy: sharp, witty, moving, and the characters are beautifully done, especially the ‘best friend’ Baba who is a controlling little bitch but gets some great lines. You can smell the fields and the tobacco-laden interiors and the endless whisky breath, and the teenage ennui and conflicting feelings, wanting excitement and rebellion and safety and comfort at the same time are done perfectly. The lonely girl involves a lot of weeping and I got a bit bored, while Girls in their married bliss was too bitter and cynical even for me. Couldn’t fault the writing, but the central figure throwing herself at one dubious married man after another wore thin.