With THE LIGHT OF EVENING Edna O'Brien returns to the world of her early fiction, rural Ireland and the relationship between mother and daughter. Whereas her first novel THE COUNTRY GIRLS was, as she once said, ' a simple little tale of two girls who were trying to burst out of their gym frocks and their convent, and their own lives in their own houses, to make it to the big city', in THE LIGHT OF THE EVENING the mother is dying, her daughter, a writer, is in the aftermath of a rotten marriage. The novel reflects their lives down the years. There are moments of lyricism and anecdote, but as with everything Edna O'Brien writes, it is her understanding of character that wins through. When we meet the mother, now in her seventies, she is seeing her doctor. She knows she is seriously unwell. Ovarian cancer is diagnosed. First the mother tries a faith-healer, but eventually accepts the inevitable and hospitalisation. There she recalls her life: going to America (through Ellis Island), becoming a servant - this historical part is full of good anecdote. The mother marries back in Ireland.Her husband loves training horses; as well as a daughter there is a son, who becomes involved with the IRA and dies.
The daughter is sophisticated, she leaves Ireland, marries an older man (is this to escape?), starts reading for a publisher, then writing, has children. Back to her mother in Ireland she sends gifts. As her mother lies dying she returns. The author's understanding of the mother-daughter relationship makes the appeal of this novel universal.
Edna O'Brien is the author of 19 books. She was the winner of the 1993 Writers' Guild Prize for Fiction. Recently she has written about Irish topics - religion, politics, property. In 2001 her novel, In the Forest - about a brutal murder on the west coast - caused a furore throughout Ireland.