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Listening to the Silence

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The Owl Killers
Karen Maitland
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
Daniel James Brown
Cloud Atlas
David Mitchell

The Country Girls Trilogy

The Country Girls Trilogy - Edna O'Brien The Country Girls Trilogy and Epilogue is a compilation of three novels that span the lives of two girls, from childhood through middle age, who were both rivals and friends in rural Ireland. The first of the three novels, The Country Girls introduces us to Caithleen and Baba. Caithleen is practically raised by a single mother, her father often drunk and absent, leaving them with little or no money most days, while Baba's father is good provider who comes home every night, even if the family isn't exactly a happy one. Together they go off to a convent school, Caithleen on scholarship, Baba out of jealousy. The second book in the set, Lonely Girls (more commonly known by the name Girl With Green Eyes), picks up where the first leaves off, in Dublin, where the girls are set to start their lives. They live together as boarders, Baba to attend school, and Caithleen working in a grocery. What they are really looking for though is freedom and men, rich if Baba has anything to say about it. The final book of the series, Girls In Their Married Bliss opens with both of the girls marriages, both of them seemingly getting exactly what they wanted. Yet nothing is ever as it seems, and life still has many surprises in store for both of them.

Both the first and second book were told by Caithleen, later known as Kate, while the last of the trilogy and the epilogue are narrated by Baba. Kate was often ruled by her emotions, and though intelligent, she let her feelings blind her to common sense and reality. Baba is far more pragmatic; she is also brazen and bold, and in my opinion makes a far more interesting character, though Kate's story is richer. In the end, I quite enjoyed all of the books and I'm glad I read them together in one book, because I'm not sure that I would have made a point to continue soon after the first.

Both The Country Girls and Girl With Green Eyes can be found on the list of the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, though I actually enjoyed the last book far more. The story told in Married Bliss, while much darker, was more interesting and far richer. Yet, without the first two preceding it, it couldn't have been told. These are quintessential coming-of-age stories, both realistic and tragic, telling a story that unfolds every day, in every town and city.