(Rachel Cooke’s article appeared in the Observer, 2/6.)
I cannot speak for custom, and its effect on her variety, but I will say this for Edna O'Brien: age cannot wither her. Last summer, I was invited to a book party at the somewhat unlikely venue of Mahiki, the Sloane nightclub much frequented by Prince Harry, Kate Middleton et al. All around me were the usual suspects: novelists, publishing people, lots of journalists. It was fun, but noisy, and crowded, and you had to move carefully in order not to spill your cocktail. It was just as I was embarking on a dangerous manoeuvre from bar to banquette that I caught sight of her: the woman who, when I was 13, was my favourite writer (I was in love with the heroines of The Country Girls, Baba and Kate: their rebellion spoke to something in me just as, years before, it had spoken to something in my mother, whose copy of the novel I had nicked). I stopped dead in my tracks.