O'Brien, Edna, 1932–, Irish writer, b. Twamgraney. After living in Dublin, she moved (1954) to London, where she still lives. Her constant theme and the setting of her fiction, however, is Ireland. In richly sensual prose, O'Brien explores the dreams, failed marriages, doomed affairs, brief happiness, and ultimate disenchantment of individual women in her homeland's enclosed, sexually repressed culture. Several of her works were once banned there. Her early works include a trilogy, The Country Girls (1960), The Lonely Girl (1962), and Girls in Their Married Bliss (1964). Among her subsequent novels are Casualties of Peace (1966), Johnny I Hardly Knew You (1977), and The High Road (1988). Her later novels, such as House of Splendid Isolation (1994), Down by the River (1997), and In the Forest (2002), continue to focus on the vicissitudes of women's lives while treating larger themes of the Irish experience. The semiautobiographical The Light of Evening (2006), her 20th novel, features a version of her mother as a central character. O'Brien is equally known for her beautifully wrought short stories, which are collected in The Love Object (1968), A Scandalous Woman (1974), A Fanatic Heart (1984), Lantern Slides (1990), and Saints and Sinners (2011). She has also written brief biographies of James Joyce (1999) and Lord Byron (2009), essays, plays, and screenplays.
See her memoirs, Mother Ireland (1976) and Country Girl (2013); studies by G. Eckley (1974), B. Schrank (1998), A. Greenwood (2003), L. Colletta and M. O'Connor, ed. (2006), and K. Laing et al., ed. (2006).