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Mother Ireland includes seven essays seamlessly woven into an autobiographical tapestry In her lyrical sensuous voice O'Brien describes growing up in rural County Clare from her days in a convent school to her first kiss to her eventual migration to England Weaving her own personal history with the history of Ireland she effortlessly melds local customs and ancient lore with the fascinating people and events that shaped he young life The result is a colorful and timeless narrative that perfectly captures the heart and soul of this harshly beautiful country


10 thoughts on “Mother Ireland A Memoir

  1. says:

    This slim volume combines travel writing history and memoir with plentiful black and white photographs by Fergus Bourke along the way Often even where O’Brien is clearly drawing on autobiographical material she resists saying “I” instead opting for “one” “you” or “we” I think she was aiming at the universalities of the Irish experience but instead it ends up coming off as generic That and a long opening chapter on Ireland’s history set me to skimming Also the book is maddeningly underpunctuated and the photos in particular seem very dated By far my favorite of the seven essays was the last “Escape to England” In just three pages she explains what it’s like to start a new life in another country and how the experience allowed her to appreciate home all the Should I try O’Brien’s fiction?Favorite lines“Irish people do not like to be contradicted Foiled again and again they have in them a rage that comes at you unawares like a briar jutting out of a hedge”“You are Irish you say lightly and allocated to you are the tendencies to be wild wanton drunk superstitious unreliable backward toadying and prone to fits whereas you know that in fact a whole entourage of ghosts resides in you ghosts with whom the inner rapport is as frequent as perplexing as defiant as with any of the living”


  2. says:

    Prolific Irish writer Edna O'Brien was born in County Clare in 1930 MOTHER IRELAND is her first nonfiction book it was written in 1976 O'Brien comments on the title Countries are either mothers or fathersIreland has always been a woman a womb a cave a cow a Rosaleen a sow a bride a harlot and of course the gaunt Hag of BeareIn 1979 I entered the University of North Florida as a night student pursuing a degree in Literature I joined UNF's Irish Studies program in 1986its first year of existenceand participated in two literary tours of Ireland sponsored by the University Irish books were difficult to find in America at the time A local bookseller ordered me a trilogy of O'Brien's THE COUNTRY GIRLS her first novels But O'Brien's short stories depict for me the 20th century Irishwoman and tell the true revolving story of Mother Ireland Stories like A Scandalous Woman The Love Object Sister Imelda and Mrs Reinhardt Often unattractive characters as fat stolid uninspiring Hilda Love in The Small Town LoversPhilip Roth and Frank Tuohy explain the writings of the prolific O'Brien In his introduction of THE FANATIC HEART SELECTED STORIES OF EDNA O'BRIEN Roth relatesYou see a country and a culture impressing itself deeply on this writer The country is Ireland and from the evidence available she is succubus than mother The need to escape is visceral There is a sense of protest in these stories but it is often concealed or channeled into pain perhaps because the author is a woman The aggression takes the form of an arresting and unfaltering scream When the background is rural even barbaric there is a rawness and earthinessAnd the academic Frank Tuohy in an essay about James Joyce says that while Joyce was the first Irish Catholic writer to make his experience and surroundings recognizable the world of Nora Barnacle had to wait for the fiction of Edna O'BrienBy all means read this O'Brien memoir about growing up in Ireland and view the countryside in her beloved County Clare but find a true portrait of 20th century Irishwomen in the characters of her short stories


  3. says:

    Very much reflections of a certain time and place in Ireland and can be a bit rambling but if you have ever been or enjoy Irish writers you will find something to like in this work Favorite quotes People fall in love with Ireland They go there and are smitten see the white cottages nestling so to speak beneath the hills the ranges of brooding blue mountain the haze above them the fuchsia hedges in Kerry the barking dogs the chalky limestone steppes of west Clare a phenomenon so unyielding it is as if Wuthering Heights were transmitted from paper to landscape The Irish were so often on the verge of the victorious when fate a fresh enemy bungling weariness or inner treachery altered events So we were told in the classroom day after day year after year and so subconsciously we developed our notions of destiny and all its vicissitudes Irish? In truth I would not want to be anything else It is a state of mind as well as an actual country It is being at odds with other nationalities having quite different philosophy about pleasure about punishment about life and about death


  4. says:

    Gorgeous evocative writing More of an elongated essay than a book but richly written linking Ireland's past with that of the author Beautiful Highly recommended


  5. says:

    I am embarrassed to say that this wonderful memoir sat unread on my bookshelf since the year 2000 I picked it up and paid for it at a souvenir shop whilst my sister and I were on a trip to Ireland celebrating my 50th birthday The author's last name being the same as my own very likely had gotten my attention while I was gathering a few books to take home with me at the end of my trip I have no real excuse for not reading the book other than I tend to favor historical fiction over memoirs Time passes quickly Very recently a new friend suggested I should read some of Edna O'Brien's work as I myself was attempting to write about Ireland a rather presumptuous undertaking for someone who had grown up in Canada I remembered that I had bought Mother Ireland A Memoir on one of my trips to Ireland and found it standing pristine on my bookshelf among several other well thumbed books about Irish history Mother Ireland is composed of a series of essays that have been arranged in chronological order each essay forming a separate chapter The chapters flow smoothly from one to another Without knowing beforehand one would never guess that this was not written as a complete work from start to finish I enjoyed the initial chapter which gives a compact version of the very complicated history of Ireland from ancient times to the 1800s The author's prose is rich colourful never pedantic In subsequent chapters the author begins to tell of her own upbringing in a small town in County Clare This is when I really get interested My own mother was born on a farm on the outskirts of a village in County Clare 100 years ago today amazing but true She was one of ten children The stories she told me about growing up in County Clare in the 1920s and 1930s and my own experiences on visiting County Clare as a child in the 50s and later as an adult are brought back to me over and over again in the chapters of this memoir Just as the author left Clare for Dublin and then England so did my mother My mother married my father one of those Medical students who behaved wantonly drank porter and got her pregnant forcing her to marry and therefore requiring her to forfeit the highly regarded civil service job she had attained a few years earlier I was the first child of my parents to be born in the New World My mother named me ClareWhen I read this book it was almost as if my mother was talking to me Unfortunately I lost my mother 45 years ago when I was 21 This book makes me wish I could have known her for so much longer I thank the author for bringing her back to me Having finished this memoir I shall read Edna O'Brien's other works starting with Country Girl


  6. says:

    Edna O’Brien has been called the “doyenne” of Irish literature and is considered by some to be one of the most gifted writers of her generation But when her books were first published they were banned in much of Ireland and she was definitely not very well thought of in her native village of Tuamgraney in eastern County Clare This little volume of seven interconnected and autobiographical essays is a good indication of why the people she grew up with many of whom show up in her novels were none too pleased with the picture she paints But that’s because she was so straightforward in dealing with her complicated and often ambiguous feelings about being Irish “You are Irish and allocated to you are the tendencies to be wild wanton drunk and superstitious unreliable backward toadying and prone to fits whereas you know that in fact a whole entourage of ghosts resides in you ghosts with whom the inner rapport is as frequent as perplexing as defiant as with any of the living” It’s all here in this frank and evocatively written memoir which includes references to Irish history myth and legend as well as beautiful descriptions of the Irish landscape But what’s most noteworthy about this book is how brutally honest O’Brien has been in telling her own story about growing up in rural County Clare and the reality of living in a culture that bears little resemblance to the idealized and romanticized images that have evolved about it She writes of how Ireland had warped her and the people around her “all stooped by a variety of fears – fear of church fear of gombeenism fear of phantoms fear of ridicule fear of hunger fear of annihilation and fear of their own deeply ingrained aggression” But at the same time she speaks passionately and with great affection about images she values including “what is happening in any one of the little towns by day or night the tillage and the walled gardens the spilt porter foam along the counters the argument and ballads the elevation bell and the prayers for the dead” This is a haunting book about the what it meant for Edna O’Brien to be stifled and suffocated by a repressive culture while carrying the heart and the soul of Ireland deep within her


  7. says:

    My mom's childhood life was not really a happy one She wasn't particulary fond of the pain Frank McCourt's memoir brought up He tells some very funny anecdotes but bottom line is if this is too upsetting I may not finish it


  8. says:

    Certainly an eye opener for me Raised on the brief Irish American history of Ireland of St Patrick the druids the dreaded English the famine the struggles and a pint among friends this look into what Ireland was to a rural Irish girl who could think clearly and write beautifully gave me pause Just the chapter headings in this short work Mother Ireland Home School What We Read Convent Dublin England focuses you on all but the most pervasive theme of life growing up in County Clare That final untitled component religion Catholicism seeps through the pores of this work settles in it like the chill damp October air that blankets the fairest of isles You see and you feel the constraint the repression the powerlessness to God and to conqueror and a sense that the stories of Ireland; no the storytelling itself is but an outlet to channel the impotence of a people broken by their own history It's not all Bleak House but it hit me personally as a tonic of sorts a reminder that people and peoples are complex that myth is helpful but blinding and that through it all there shines a rich but muted fabric of life that is best viewed in detail with eyes open Something Ms O'Brien does quite well


  9. says:

    I'm only recently on to Edna O'Brien and this is the first thing I've read after The Country Girls trilogy Given the similar subject matter I'm struck by the difference in approaches In contrast to the direct and personal voice of the trilogy the narrative voice of Mother Ireland is universal; where O'Brien is describing personal experience she takes care to present only what is shared by Irish women Irish ex pats Irish artists Irish poor Only rarely did I notice the economic prose in the trilogy but Mother Ireland is lush with it The book is beautifully written


  10. says:

    Based on Country Girls will not read Don’t like writing style