I HARDLY KNEW YOU by Edna O'Brien

I HARDLY KNEW YOU

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

The anger that has burbled in the background of so many of O'Brien's Irish girls is now opt on top: the girl is a sophisticated woman, her name is Nora, and this is her brief statement from prison, where she awaits trial for the murder of her much younger paramour. Nora speculates on the upcoming courtroom scenes, muses on her crime, and catalogues her lovers--the woman she used (""Quite a little damson she was and tart to the taste""), the men who used her. ""Haven't I always been attending to a him, and dancing attendance upon a him, and being a slave to a him and being trampled on by a him?"" A foiled rapist (on an art-trip to Tuscany), ""frothing"" father, vicious husband, provocative son (he allows her ""to caress his bare instep, and stroke his toes"")--Nora kills them all when she smothers blameless actor Hart, who's unwise enough to ask Nora to live with him and then have an epileptic fit while in her embrace (at the Edinburgh Festival). No, love ""is by no means the tender shoot it is reputed to be,"" and O'Brien's lyricism--knickers and knees, worshipful ecstasy and ""the pathos, the shit pathos""--sweeps Nora's triumphant resentments majestically along, even if it never rises above or beyond its self-conscious stylishness. The same fetcing quirks and word-music change-ups that keep the pages turning also keep the emotions oblique, but that's the O'Brien trade-off--a deal too good to pass up for those who prize line-by-line stimulation over more lingering sensations.

Pub Date: Jan. 6th, 1977
Publisher: Doubleday