Girl With Green Eyes by Edna O’Brien is the second book in her trilogy featuring Caithleen Brady and her old schoolfriend and sometime bully Baba. It was published in 1962 and is sometimes titled The Lonely Girl. At the end of the last book – The Country Girls they were expelled from their convent school and amazingly they’ve been allowed to leave their homes and move to Dublin where Baba is to attend college while Caithleen is working in a grocery.
The girls are determined to make the most of the freedom from their families and scrimp and scrape to get the money to go to dances. It isn’t long before Caithleen is again involved with a much older man – as happened in the first book. He isn’t a Catholic and is already married with a child, but his wife has gone to America to get a divorce. When Caithleen’s father hears of her behaviour with a married man he goes to Dublin, determined to rescue his daughter from mortal sin and the fires of hell. It doesn’t seem to matter to anyone that Caithleen is over 21 and entitled to do what she wants with her life. It’s a very paternalistic society with the Roman Catholic priests and bishops at the top of the tree.
This is another enjoyable read with quite a lot of humour in it but it also rings so true about how women in Ireland were treated by men, and the church still thinking that it’s their right to treat them like mentally subnormal children if they didn’t obey priests and bishops. At one point I feared that Caithleen was going to end up incarcerated in a convent – as that did happen to some poor women even in the 1960s when their family thought they might ‘give the family a bad name’. Ironic really since so many of the men had a serious problem with drink and abused their wives. I well remember the singer Sinead O’Connor saying in an interview that her Granny had warned her never to marry an Irishman!
These books caused such a furore in Ireland when they were first published, they’re so autobiographical but the locals didn’t appreciate her honesty. You might be interested in watching the interview with Edna O’Brien below.