Form and Content
Mother Ireland is Edna O’Brien’s first book-length work of nonfiction, a medium to which she has not devoted very much attention during her prolific writing career. In certain respects, the book is a consolidation and repetition of material which the author had already treated fictionally in her first three novels—The Country Girl (1960), The Lonely Girl (1962), and Girls in Their Married Bliss (1964)—and more graphically and with greater art in A Pagan Place (1970). The autobiographical content of Mother Ireland, however, is presented in the context of the author’s general observations about her native land and her native place within it, which is in rural County Clare, in the west of Ireland. Thus, while the seven chapters of Mother Ireland cover O’Brien’s childhood, education, and immediate after-school life in Dublin, culminating in her emigration to England, each chapter contains more than a mere recitation of strictly autobiographical data. It is for this reason that the work is ultimately one of cultural, rather than strictly personal, interest and significance. Clearly, readers wishing to know more of the background of one of the least likely, but best-known contemporary Irish writers of fiction will find a considerable amount of color and detail regarding Edna O’Brien’s origins, together with an intriguing amplification of episodes from the early novels.
(The entire section is 477 words.)