New Books: Information & Extracts

Country Girl

Edna O'Brien
Publisher
Faber and Faber
Price
£20
ISBN
9780571269433

 When I got to the entrance to the bog, Carnero would be beckoning to me to hurry on, because he had 'hungry grass'. The bog itself (another venue for my future composition) was a vista of colours that stretched miles and miles to the next parish, where we could see the slate-blue of the church spire. The cut turf was still black, but the sides of the turf banks were a blacker black that oozed bog-water and the heather, blasted by winter winds, bloomed purple and purple-brown. A tall fringing of soft-green sedge circled the lake where water birds nested and let out occasional shrieks of alarm. On the brackish water a few yellow irises, sun-shot and golden, left one in no mistake but that it was high summer. He didn't like the tepid tea so, pulling heather by the roots and using a few birch branches, he started up a fire, to heat it in a billy-can. The smell of the fire in the open air was so clean and the thin smoke drifted up in sputters. I had a surprise for him. 'What, what?' I kept stringing it along. It concerned Sacko, who was both his friend and his rival. I had brought a newspaper, wrapped around the bottle of tea, in which Sacko's rash adventures were graphically relayed. Carnero lay back, rolling his tongue repeatedly over his unwashed, yellow teeth. He was agog. At that time I was too young to notice that Carnero could neither read nor write.

Only the week before we were in stitches reading of a Mrs Considine, up in West Clare, who took a swing at a Mrs Berg for the larceny of two pounds of sugar, four penny buns and two candles. The witness, who had been wheeling Mrs Considine's bicycle, identified himself in the court as having kept apart 'from the scenery', but did allow that both women had scratches on their faces and also blood and loose teeth. Still another woman had been charged with a theft of a piece of mutton, worth one shilling and sixpence.