Paradise by Edna O’Brien

The saucy theme continues (see previous post on Mrs Fox), who knew that these short stories would be written in such a provocative way?! Paradise tells the story of a young woman spending the summer with her much older boyfriend and his friends. Age is not the only difference, her boyfriend is extremely rich. Her summer activity is to learn how to swim – I assume the author chose this sport to also highlight that this woman is out of her depth with the wealth of her boyfriend and his guests…and so it is a test both physically and emotionally. Will she sink or swim?

O’Brien captures the sleepy, happiness of a long summer beautifully throughout the pages and her descriptive writing style had me picturing the house, the boat and the swimming clearly in my mind. I also can’t argue with her portrayal of the insecurities that the woman felt among a social circle that she’d not been in before; her constant need for her boyfriend’s approval on her conversation topics and the organisation of dinners were captured sympathetically.

The bedroom scenes made me cringe, as I said earlier O’Brien’s style is descriptive and atmospheric, and quite frankly I didn’t need that level of detail… it could easily have been implied rather than spelled out.

Sadly, the above isn’t my only issue with the book… it didn’t feel like a story, it felt like an act in a play or a scene in a movie. There was no beginning or ending, it felt like the middle of a story… and because it didn’t have a solid anchor on either side, it just kind of bobbed there, attracting your attention whilst your eyes skimmed over it and then floated away without leaving any permanent meaning.

Right I’ll stop because my puns in the last paragraph are verging on cringe too!

Paradise is out now in paperback and eBook versions from Faber & Faber.

Until next time, Chloé x

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