Girls in Their Married Bliss by Edna O’Brien

 Fair Helen cover

Girls in Their Married Bliss by Edna O’Brien was published in 1964 and it’s the third book in her series also comprising The Country Girls, and Girl with Green Eyes (previously The Lonely Girl) which are about two young Irish girls. This one begins with Baba giving a quick resume of her and her friend Kate’s (known as Caithleen before) life, they had been friends since childhood. Surprisingly both young women have married well-off men and are living in London. You would think that they had fallen on their feet but the title of the book is deeply sarcastic as marriage has turned out to be far from bliss for the young women.

I have to say that I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the other two books, it’s not that the writing is bad but neither Kate nor Baba seemed to mature over the years, but then if they had the book would have been very different. I just felt like giving them both a good shake a lot of the time. I found the ending to be quite depressing, but I’m glad that I completed the series. This is a very quick read at just 160 pages.

Girl With Green Eyes by Edna O’Brien

Girl with Green Eyes

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.

The Country Girls by Edna O’Brien

The Country Girls cover

The Country Girls by Edna O’Brien was first published in 1960 and it’s a slim read at just 186 pages. It was the author’s first book and there are two other books by her featuring Caithleen, a young girl still at school and her sometime friend but often her bully Baba. Caithleen is smart and gets a scholarship to the supposedly prestigious convent school but Baba’s parents have to pay for her to go there.

Life for females in Ireland has never been easy what with most of the men apparently having a drink problem and being abusive in various ways, the women being downtrodden by their families and the Catholic Church. Until recently it was still like that but it seems to be changing – too slowly.

I loved this one with the two young girls refusing to be ruled by their families and the church, and getting up to all sorts of nonsense. The blurb on the back says: ‘Excellent and highly unusual blend of bawdiness and innocence’Evening Standard.

I don’t often buy books from the internet but I bought the second one in this series Girl With Green Eyes (also titled The Lonely Girls) – so that I could continue reading the adventures of Caithleen and Baba.