Summary and book reviews of The Love Object by Edna O'Brien

The Love Object

Selected Stories

by Edna O'Brien

The Love Object by Edna O'Brien X
The Love Object by Edna O'Brien
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  • First Published:
    May 2015, 544 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2017, 544 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jennifer G Wilder
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About this Book

Book Summary

Collected here for the first time are stories spanning five decades of writing by the "short story master." (Harold Bloom)

As John Banville writes in his introduction to The Love Object, Edna O'Brien "is, simply, one of the finest writers of our time." The thirty-one stories collected in this volume provide, among other things, a cumulative portrait of Ireland, seen from within and without.

Coming of age, the impact of class, and familial and romantic love are the prevalent motifs, along with the instinct toward escape and subsequent nostalgia for home. Some of the stories are linked and some carry O'Brien's distinct sense of the comical. In "A Rose in the Heart of New York," the single-mindedness of love dramatically derails the relationship between a girl and her mother, while in "Sister Imelda" and "The Creature" the strong ties between teacher and student and mother and son are ultimately broken. "The Love Object" recounts a passionate affair between the narrator and her older lover.

The magnificent, mid-career title story from Lantern Slides portrays a Dublin dinner party that takes on the lives and loves of all the guests. More recent stories include "Shovel Kings" - "a masterpiece of compression, distilling the pain of a lost, exiled generation" (Sunday Times) - and "Old Wounds," which follows the revival and demise of the friendship between two elderly cousins.

In 2011, Edna O'Brien's gifts were acknowledged with the most prestigious international award for the story, the Frank O'Connor Short Story Award. The Love Object illustrates a career's worth of shimmering, potent prose from a writer of great courage, vision, and heart.

Storm

The sun gave to the bare fields the luster of ripened hay. That is why people go, for the sun and the scenery— ranges of mountains, their peaks sparkling, an almost cloudless sky, the sea a variety of shades of blue, ceaselessly flickering like a tray of jewels. Yet Eileen wants to go home; to be more precise, she wishes that she had never come. Her son Mark, and his girlfriend, Penny, have become strangers to her and, though they talk and go to the beach and go to dinner, there is between them a tautness. She sees her age and her separateness much more painfully here than when at home, and she is lost without the props of work and friends. She sees faults in Penny that she had not noticed before. She is irked that a girl of twenty can be so self- assured, irked at the languid painstaking way that Penny applies her suntan oil, making sure that it covers each inch of her body, then rolling onto her stomach imploring Mark to cover her back completely. At other times Penny ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Edna O'Brien's The Love Object is more than a short-story collection, it's an encyclopedia of perfect storytelling and a retrospective on the fifty-year career of a writer of exquisite finesse and pathos. O'Brien has taken a great deal of time over these small works of art. They are finely wrought pieces with vivid details, sparingly rendered. The sentences are buffed to a polish, the symbolic images (a green georgette evening gown, a mossy cave, an undercooked fowl) so finely worked, their seams are invisible.   (Reviewed by Jennifer G Wilder).

Full Review (774 words).

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Media Reviews

Times Literary Supplement (UK)
When a writer as gifted as O'Brien memorializes a vanishing world, we experience not only the 'lost landscape' but the richly ambivalent emotions it has evoked.

The Observer (UK)
Every one of the stories included is a shining example of a master at work.

Publishers Weekly
John Banville’s introduction to the collection highlights O’Brien’s technique as well as her Irish roots. The stories validate his admiration—O’Brien’s self-described gallery of “strange” and “sacrificial” Irish women is indispensable.

Booklist
Starred Review. What we see now is what was always there, brilliant prose couched in extremely creative and greatly relevant story lines presenting well-understood and broadly understandable characters.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. This collection positions O'Brien among the literary heavyweights, where it confirms she belongs.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The Literary Life of Edna O'Brien

Edna O'Brien Edna O'Brien was born in 1930 in western Ireland, where her parents lived in a picturesque stone house called Drewsboro, built on the remains of a fancy country house her father had helped burn down so the British couldn't use it during the Irish War of Independence after World War I. Her father's family was wealthy, her mother's, poor. They raised racehorses and other livestock. O'Brien grew up exploring the wild country landscape, full of bogs and forests, and observing the unhappiness of her parents. Her father drank and got into debt, and her mother kept the farm going and suffered. Meanwhile, the local Catholic culture was suspicious of literature but flush with storytelling and the old poetry and folklore of the Irish past. ...

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