Down by the River

Edna O'Brien, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $23 (256p) ISBN 978-0-374-14327-5
Inspired by a highly controversial incident that took place in Ireland a few years ago, O'Brien's latest novel (after House of Splendid Isolation) is a riveting and resonating story. Mary, a young teenager, seems an ordinary girl but hides an abominable secret. For years, she has been brutalized and sexually abused by a monstrous father, a crime her victimized mother ignores. Even those--neighbors, priests and teachers--who know Mary and have their suspicions, say nothing. A dreadful silence is maintained in conformance to a society whose view of sexuality has become perverted by a fanatical church and a conservative state. When the forced incest results in Mary's pregnancy, a neighbor does rally to her side, but with disastrous results. Church and state use their full powers to enforce laws banning abortion; the consequences are devastating. Mary metamorphoses from terrified innocent to potential murderess. Her fate thrown into the hands of the ""men in suits"" in the courtroom and psychiatric ward, she is buffeted between the pro-life and the pro-choice camps like a human football, and her case fills headlines and blares from the television. Taking Mary's point of view, and revealing the full horror and pathos of her heroine's plight only gradually, O'Brien creates a stark, unflinching story. But a simultaneous poetic sense also embues the narrative with beauty and grace. O'Brien's early books were originally banned in her native Ireland for daring to put on paper the idea that Irish women had a sexuality at all. Here, she has written a harrowing, punchout of a book that leaves the reader drained. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/31/1997
Release date: 04/01/1997
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.