A GIFT HORSE by Kate Cruise O'Brien


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Popular in Ireland, where it was first published, O'Brien's debut collection of stories presumably had the lure of a famous daughter's revelations (her father is writer and statesman Conor Cruise O'Brien). Certainly the first stories here--vignettes of a young Irish girl alternately mortified and proud of her mother's non-conformism, tales of parental divorce and feathery undergraduate affairs--seem to offer more gossip value than literary impact. But as the stories progress in what seems like chronological sequence, they become firmer, more universal--with the narrators (all female) laying out, with little flummery, convincing pictures of characters beset with problems. ""The Glass Wall"" (about agoraphobia) and ""Some Rain Must Fall"" (miscarriage) are especially good. And in ""Trespasses,"" an off-kilter marriage exposes the sheer need of love--and how easily it turns, when pressured, into voracious emotional blackmail. Though O'Brien doesn't yet really know how to orchestrate her fiction fully, the sonata form fits her quite nicely for now. Overall: a slight but insightful collection.

Pub Date: Jan. 26th, 1980
Publisher: Braziller