The Love Object by Edna O'Brien – review

Every one of these stories on the theme of love shows Edna O'Brien as a master of her craft

In most short story collections there are one or two gems that stand out; in this new edition of Edna O'Brien's selected works, however, every one of the stories included is a shining example of a master at work.

The collection takes its name from the story of an affair between a famous, older man and a younger woman, ripe with delicate details such as his search for a clothes brush the morning after and her inability to provide: "I never buy cleaning stuffs or aids for prolonging property." There are numerous portraits of O'Brien's native Ireland, the most poignant of which deal with innocents in rural settings, including a drunken party in "Irish Revel" where a young girl hopes to meet the English painter who stole her heart two summers previously; a jealous teacher in "The Doll" who makes the life of one of her small charges a misery; and an illicit schoolgirl crush in "Sister Imelda": "She would be not just one of those teachers or nuns, but rather a special one almost like a ghost who passed the boundaries of common exchange and who crept inside one, devouring so much of one's thoughts, so much of one's passion, invading the place that was called one's heart."

Love, in all its multifarious forms, is O'Brien's subject – first loves, a mother's love, the disenchantment that eventually sets in – but The Love Object is also something of a love song to Ireland itself.


Lucy Scholes

The GuardianTramp

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