Edna O'BrienJoanna Walsh - Edna O'Brien, Night (1972)

I'm putting in a vote for Night (1972) by Edna O'Brien, who has just received the PEN/Nabokov literary award. I remember being warned off O'Brien as a teenager because she wrote 'women's books'. What did that mean? I couldn't imagine: something sticky, viscous, weepy, shouty perhaps. Something that took notice of everything I'd been told not to notice as a woman, and particularly not to write down: my body, my social position, my relation to and relationships with men, the way I, and my mother, and my female relatives and friends used language, and the things they used those words to describe - in short, myself. In Night, O'Brien invents a new language for the body, that comes from the body. Raucous, sensual, knife-sharp and very funny, Night is a double feat of linguistic invention - writing that both embodies and transcends a way of being - as she writes from within a woman's experience, all the time examining it with the cool distance of a practiced word-collector.

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