The Light of Evening

Edna O'Brien, Author
Edna O'Brien, Author . Houghton Mifflin $25 (294p) ISBN 978-0-618-71867-2
Reviewed on: 06/26/2006
Release date: 10/01/2006

In her 20th work of fiction, O'Brien meditates with haunting lyricism on the lure of home and the compulsion to leave. Dilly, 78 and widowed, lies in a Catholic hospital in rural Ireland waiting for her elder daughter, Eleanora, to arrive at her bedside. In gorgeous stream-of-consciousness from the masterful O'Brien (Lantern Slides ), Dilly recalls her early years as well as decades of misunderstanding and conflict with Eleanora. Dilly's past unfolds in fits and starts: she leaves her mother behind in a small village in Ireland to seek a better life in 1920s Brooklyn, returning after a failed affair and the death of her brother, Michael. She promptly marries the rich Cornelius; they settle at Rusheen, his dilapidated family estate, and have two children. For Eleanora's story, O'Brien shifts to the third person: the daughter moves to England, marries an older novelist and begins a successful career as a writer before divorcing him and embarking on a series of affairs with married men, a life that Dilly both envies and scorns. The award-winning O'Brien evokes the cruelty of estrangement while allowing her characters to remain sympathetic and giving them real voice. (Oct.)

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