The Country Girls Trilogy and Epilogue

by Edna O’Brien

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Kate and Baba eventually become best friends. They spend a lot of their childhood at odds, as the confident Baba picks on the quiet Kate. They grow up with very different mothers. Kate's mother is seen as a paragon who accepts her alcoholic husband's abuse; Baba's, on the other hand, isn't a paragon. O'Brien writes:

Martha was what the villagers called fast. Most nights she went down to the Greyhound Hotel, dressed in a tight black suit with nothing under the jacket only a brassiere, and with a chiffon scarf knotted at her throat. Strangers and commercial travellers admired her. Pale face, painted nails, blue-black pile of hair, Madonna face, perched on a high stool in the lounge bar of the Greyhound Hotel, they thought she looked sad. But Martha was not ever sad, unless being bored is a form of sadness. She wanted two things from life and she got them – drink and admiration.

When Kate and Baba go away to school, they become closer and have fewer issues between them. Still, Baba tends to be more outspoken and sassy than Kate. For example:

"Can you post eggs to England?" I asked Baba.

"Of course you can post eggs to England if you want the postman to deliver a box of sop and mush with egg white running up his sleeve. If you want to be a moron you can post eggs to England but they'll turn into chickens on the way."

Time passes, and the girls are older and out in the world. They're trying to figure out who they are in life—and in love. Kate falls for a man who is cosmopolitan and reminds her of Mr. Gentleman but who is only embarrassed by her, even after they have a relationship. She endeavors to be what he wants. For example:

"It's all right, I wouldn't throw a nice girl out of my bed," he joked, and I wondered what he really thought of me. I was not sophisticated and I couldn't talk very well nor drive a car.

"I'll try and get sophisticated," I said. I would cut my hair, buy tight skirts and a corset.

By the third book, Kate has changed into the type of wife that Eugene wants. She's unhappily married to him but happy to have their son. Her desire for something more leads to disaster, even while Baba finds that her unhappy marriage has some benefits. O'Brien writes:

Life, after all, was a secret with the self. The more one gave out, the less there remained for the center--that center which she coveted for herself and recognized instantly in others. Fruits had it, the very heart of, say, a cherry, where the true worth and flavor lay. Some of course were flawed or hollow in there. Many, in fact.

Throughout all three novels, the girls rise and fall with the weight of their choices and those of the people around them. They never do completely manage to create the lives they want, however. Kate ultimately dies in the epilogue, and Baba feels unfulfilled with her life.

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