The Country Girls. Caithleen “Kate” Brady has an adolescent worldview. Her mother is beautiful but depressed, while Kate’s father is a vicious drunk who oppresses and abuses his wife and child. The Bradys own a farm with a beautiful house that they cannot afford. Kate is an only child.
Kate has a schoolgirl crush on Jacques de Maurier, a solicitor in their village who the townspeople have nicknamed Mr. Gentleman for his foreign and gallant ways.
Bridget “Baba” Brennan is Kate’s age but is spiteful, unintelligent, and beautiful. Baba frequently bullies and humiliates Kate, but Kate feels helpless to stop it. Somehow, the girls are drawn to one another. Kate envies Baba her kind father while Baba envies Kate her intelligence and quiet demeanor.
Kate earns a scholarship to a convent school, the same day she learns that her house is mortgaged and that Baba is going to the same convent in the fall. While at Baba’s house, Kate soon discovers that her mother has drowned while out with another man. Her childhood is over. She remains with the Brennan family over the summer and feels conflicted: She is happy to be safe from the fists of her father, but she is devastated by the loss of her mother.
Mr. Gentleman sees Kate waiting for the bus to Limerick and gives her a lift. At lunch, he flirts with her, and on the way home in the car, he holds her hand. This day becomes a precious memory for Kate.
The convent is a cold, loveless place where the girls band together against the grim atmosphere. Both girls despise it here and eventually are expelled for writing a vulgarity on a holy card. Reveling in their newfound freedom, Kate and Baba are unrepentant when chastised by their respective families over the incident. Caithleen has a distant and uncomfortable relationship with her father but finds a new friend in Mr. Brennan, Baba’s father, who protects her from the wrath of her own father. He is kind to her as well.
Baba goes to Dublin for technical school, and Caithleen goes with her because there is nothing left for her at home. She works in a grocery store, and both girls room with a German couple, Joanna and Gustav, in Dublin. Kate becomes more outspoken and does not let Baba bully her. They become close friends, and Baba frequently finds double dates with dull but rich older men. Neither girl is looking for a life partner at this point. Mr. Gentleman finds Kate in Dublin and begins an illicit, albeit chaste, affair with her.
Baba becomes ill with tuberculosis and goes to a sanatorium for six months. Meanwhile, Kate continues her affair with Mr. Gentleman, and they plan a vacation to Vienna to consummate their relationship. Kate waits for Mr. Gentleman to show up, but she receives only a telegram that ends their affair.
The Lonely Girl. Kate has been in Dublin for two years and is still working at the grocery store and living with Baba at Joanna and Gustav’s house. The girls date indiscriminately, typically rich older men, and happily remain unattached until Kate meets Eugene Gaillard at a party. Eugene, an older documentary-film director, treats the girls and another man to dinner, and Kate is smitten. She runs into Eugene the next week and is treated to tea. After weeks apart, Kate invites him to tea. They commence a relationship, even though he has reservations.
Eugene starts seeing Kate regularly and buys her a new coat. One evening he comes to tea at Kate’s lodging house, where he flirts all evening with Baba. Kate soon learns that Eugene is married, but she still agrees to go with him to his country house. At the country house, Eugene tells Kate the story of his marriage to a woman named Laura. Still, they continue dating. Kate spends Christmas with Eugene, who attempts to seduce her several times over the next few days; Kate is still a virgin and very afraid, so she does not have sex with him. She returns to her old life in Dublin, fearing...
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