Edna O'Brien

Standard Name: O'Brien, Edna
Birth Name: Edna O'Brien
Throughout her career, contemporary Irish writer EOB has published novels, short stories, drama, screen and teleplays, poetry, travel writing, and children's books. Her imaginative writing, in which she experiments with linguistic and narrative conventions, almost always presents a woman's perspective. She often deals with such themes as personal and national identity, love affairs, exile, memory, and death. She is not a writer who caters to her readers' comfort, but concentrates steadily on the darker sides of life.


Connections Sort descending Author name Excerpt
Friends, Associates Antonia Fraser
Among many other writers, her long-term friends include V. S. Naipaul , Edna O'Brien , Alison Lurie (an American who spends much of her time in London), and Emma Tennant (who read Mary, Queen of...
Literary responses Gwen Moffat
Edna O'Brien found this book enthralling and wrote: I urge you to read it.
TLS Centenary Archive Centenary Archive [1902-2012]. http://www.gale.com/c/the-times-literary-supplement-historical-archive.
3100 (28 July 1961): 463
The TLS reviewer, however, complained that there were too many characters to keep track of easily...
Literary responses Toni Morrison
O'Brien , however, was overall dissatisfied with Jazz. She felt something was lacking, and missed the emotional nexus, the moment shorn of all artifice that brings us headlong into the deepest recesses of feeling...
Literary responses Penelope Mortimer
This plot, while anything but in tune with contemporary feminist demands for the sexual liberation of women, struck a chord with readers who felt the maternal role to be devalued in modern life by feminists...
Literary responses Anita Brookner
Edna O'Brien said that in this novel consummate emotion is met with flawless style.
Brookner, Anita. Hotel du Lac. Jonathan Cape.
Occupation Bernice Rubens
As a writer she was an assiduous attender of literary festivals, a virtuoso reader of her own and other authors' work.
Kennedy, Maev. “Booker winner Bernice Rubens dies”. Guardian Unlimited.
She tells a story from her whoring or book-promotion days of sitting beside Edna O'Brien
politics Margaret Drabble
She also remembered the rise of feminism: the books by Doris Lessing , Sylvia Plath , Nell Dunn , and Edna O'Brienthat would irreversibly affect women's destiny, and the pioneering of feminist journalism by Mary Stott .
Drabble, Margaret. “1960s”. The Guardian, pp. Weekend 25 - 31.
Author summary Hilary Mantel
The author of twelve novels (ranging from political thrillers through social satire, comedy of manners, and near-gothic), still at the height of her career, HM has been likened to Muriel Spark or Edna O'Brien for...
Reception Iris Murdoch
This book was runner-up for the Booker Prize, by a whisker and a casting vote. The winner was The Siege of Krishnapur by J. G. Farrell . The judges were Edna O'Brien and Mary McCarthy
Reception Beryl Bainbridge
Reviews were excellent, but BB was astonished when they treated this as a funny book.
“The Times Digital Archive 1785-2007”. Thompson Gale: The Times Digital Archive.
(4 November 1978): 14
Karl Miller , a steady admirer of her writing, hoped Bainbridge would get the Booker Prize...
Textual Features Anne Enright
She included stories by Mary Lavin , Elizabeth Bowen , Edna O'Brien , Clare Boylan , Maeve Brennan , Anne Devlin , Claire Keegan , and Éilís Ní Dhuibhne .
Enright, Anne. The Forgotten Waltz. McClelland and Stewart.
Textual Features James Joyce
Joyce declared that the play was about exile, not about adultery, but Edna O'Brien in her capacity as critic firmly associates it with two moments in his relationship with his wife: when enemies successfully misled...
Textual Features Shena Mackay
The stories here deal with all kinds of complexity and nuance in the sisterly relationship. The collection ends, as the introduction begins, with Christina Rossetti 's Goblin Market. The nineteenth century is further represented...
Textual Features Toni Morrison
Set in Harlem in 1926,
Gates, Henry Louis, and Kwame Anthony Appiah, editors. Toni Morrison: Critical Perspectives Past and Present. Amistad.
this story presents the middle-aged marriage between Joe Trace, a door-to-door cosmetics salesman and perpetrator of a crime of passion, and Violet, a hairdresser who devotes her working life...
Textual Features Kate O'Brien
Edna O'Brien is quoted on the cover of the Virago edition referring to the perfect capture of the mood and landscape of a corner of Ireland.
O’Brien, Kate. The Last of Summer. Virago.
But both mood and landscape are deeply coloured...


21 February 1924: The first issue appeared of the New Yorker...

Writing climate item

21 February 1924

The first issue appeared of the New Yorkermagazine (still going strong in the twenty-first century).
Borne Back Daily. http://borneback.com/ .
21 February 2011

June 1972: Spare Rib, a feminist periodical issued monthly...

Women writers item

June 1972

Spare Rib, a feminist periodical issued monthly by Spare Ribs from 27 Clerkenwell Close, London, was launched to put women's liberation on the news stands.
Doughan, David, and Denise Sanchez. Feminist Periodicals, 1855-1984. Harvester Press.

April 1974: The first number of Ian Hamilton's New Review...

Writing climate item

April 1974

The first number of Ian Hamilton 's New Review (successor to The Review) included contributions from Dan Jacobson and Edna O'Brien ; it ran for fifty issues, ending in 1979.

7 February 1992: A fourteen-year-old rape victim was barred...

Building item

7 February 1992

A fourteen-year-old rape victim was barred from leaving Ireland to procure an abortion in England; the case became internationally known.

23 December 1992: The Dáil amended the Irish Constitution so...

National or international item

23 December 1992

The Dáil amended the Irish Constitution so that prohibition of abortion should no longer limit travel between states or free access to information about abortion services legally available in other countries.


O’Brien, Edna. “A Cheap Bunch of Nice Flowers”. Plays of the Year, edited by John Courtenay Trewin, Frederick Ungar, 1963.
O’Brien, Edna, and Philip Roth. A Fanatic Heart. Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1984.
O’Brien, Edna. A Pagan Place. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1970.
O’Brien, Edna. A Pagan Place: A Play. Faber, 1973.
O’Brien, Edna. A Scandalous Woman. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1974.
O’Brien, Edna, and Gerard Klijn. Arabian Days. Quartet Books, 1977.
O’Brien, Edna. August is a Wicked Month. J. Cape, 1965.
O’Brien, Edna. Casualties of Peace. J. Cape, 1966.
O’Brien, Edna. Country Girl: A Memoir. Faber and Faber, 2012.
O’Brien, Edna. Down by the River. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1996.
O’Brien, Edna. Down by the River. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997.
O’Brien, Edna. Girls in Their Married Bliss. J. Cape, 1964.
O’Brien, Edna. House of Splendid Isolation. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1994.
O’Brien, Edna. House of Splendid Isolation. Farrar Straus Giroux, 1994.
O’Brien, Edna. In the Forest. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2002.
O’Brien, Edna, and Euripides. Iphigenia. Methuen, 2003.
O’Brien, Edna. James and Nora. Lord John Press, 1981.
O’Brien, Edna. James Joyce. Viking Penguin, 1999.
O’Brien, Edna. Johnny I Hardly Knew You. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1977.
O’Brien, Edna. Lantern Slides. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1988.
O’Brien, Edna. “Lit Chat: Edna O’Brien Interview, 2 December 1995”. Salon.com.
O’Brien, Edna. Mother Ireland. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1976.
O’Brien, Edna. Mrs. Reinhardt. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1978.
O’Brien, Edna. Night. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1972.
O’Brien, Edna. On the Bone. Greville Press, 1989.