Over and above Miss O'Brien's very evident talent, there is a continuity to all her short, sometimes sketchy, novels even though the fond, fresh innocence of her Country Girl, indurated to some sordid spots, in August is a Wicked Month, now has given way to an almost frostbitten chill. Witness Willa McCord, who is the central character here, character here, living in a state of ""unlovely dependence...bleakness...loneliness, the pointless purgatory that was her wont."" She's just an older variant version of Edna O'Brien's earlier heroines, losers in their dream of love which reality cannot accommodate. Willa has had a most ambiguous experience with a German; she's still ""a virgin...though tampered with""; and she is caged, driven and unshriven with all kinds of fears and obsessions of the flesh. Now she attempts to exercise them in a night away with a freewheeling Negro admirer, while on the other hand she attempts to secure freedom for Patsy, half of an unloving couple she has had living with her--Patsy, a common Irish girl who is capable of the sexual spontaneity Willa can never achieve.... In technique this is more experimental than any of the previous books; the style more compressed, even cryptic. But even where she embarrasses, even where she exposes moments which are soiled and shabby and tatty--as Patsy might say, Edna O'Brien manages to commit the reader and transmit a sense of life in a remarkable fashion. Few writers achieve this much.