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The Lonely Girl, Edna O'Brien, 1962, Plume (also available in The Country Girls Trilogy and Epilogue, Farrar Straus Giroux, 1986) 200 pp
The Lonely Girl is the second volume of Edna O'Brien's Country Girls Trilogy. I had read the entire trilogy back in 2004, which is when I fell in love with O'Brien, so this was a second reading.
She captures so well the innocence and emotional states of Kate and her friend Baba. Baba mostly just wants to have fun but Kate falls in love with another older man. She had done that in the first book, The Country Girl, when she was still living at home and grieving for her recently deceased mother and had her heart broken. This time, she and Baba are living in a rooming house in Dublin, working at dull jobs, usually short of money, and looking for men.
Eugene Gaillard is a supposedly divorced writer who lives outside of the city on a large country estate. In fact, he is still married to his American wife with whom he has a daughter but they are separated. The romance is doomed because he is worldly and Kate is a country bumpkin, still a virgin, steeped in her Catholic teachings, in no way prepared to deal with his ways and her insecure jealousy.
It is painful to watch how her inept youthful inexperience causes her to suffer. Painful also to remember those years in my life. In some ways my early twenties were more exciting than anything in life so far but in the end there was more heartbreak than fun.
Kate's drunken father plays a huge role as he shows up at Eugene's house with a priest and a friend. They virtually kidnap her, a 20-year-old woman, and take her back to the small town where she grew up. It is all sanctimonious Irish Catholic sentiments from men who actually mistreat women. Sound familiar? Though she manages to escape she has learned very little.
Disgusting, disturbing, and the central theme of all the O'Brien novels I have read so far. Her brilliance is in plumbing the inner thoughts and feelings of her female characters.