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Down By The River [Unknown Binding]

Edna O'Brien
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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First Sentence
A head of them the road runs in a long entwined undulation of mud, patched tar and fjords of green, the grassy surfaces rutted and trampled, but the young shoots surgent in the sun; flowers and flowering weed in full regalia, a carnival sight, foxglove highest and lordliest of all, the big furry bees nosing in the cool speckled recesses of mauve and white bell. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Irish hypocrisy revealed Feb. 11 2003
Format:Paperback
Mary McNamara's life in rural western Ireland is that of a typical young teenager until one day while she is on a walk on their land, her father violates the most sacred bond between parent and child and rapes her. Unable to tell anyone, she keeps the secret, except for her diary entries. When the abuse results in an unwanted pregnancy, it precipitates a national crises when she is taken to England for an abortion.
Based on real events, this novel accurately portrays how a Catholic nation can be inflamed over a cause such at this even while the morality of the citizens is in decline as evidenced by premarital sex, living in sin, affairs, and out of wedlock births.
While I enjoyed the story of Mary's plight, the novel itself was often times confusing with so many characters and shifts in focus so that after awhile you sort of lost track of who was who. By the end I was thinking it could have been told in a much more straightforward manner in less pages.
Mary's father, James, the obvious villan in this book, is a tragic figure. He seems a contradictory character, gentle with his livestock, proud of his daughter's accomplishments at school, and missing her presence, even while he violates her. Without a wife to serve his needs, it seems Mary is to fulfill that role on all counts. In the end it is hard to feel much more than pity for this pathetic nature.
Mary, for being all of fourteen, seems stronger than either of her parents in enduring the many hardhsips and allowing herself to be used by different fractions for their own purposes. It is hard to imagine what her life would be like afterwards, though the last pages try to give us a glimpse of her new life.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Cathlic Heart Aug. 30 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Edna O"Brien's story of a young girl who becomes pregnant by a relative is based on a true story.Her version successfully captures the horror and shame thrust( by supposed christians and do gooders) upon the victim of incest and rape who is too young and naive to really understand why she can't have an abortion,or why she has become of such interest to so many people.A thought provoking and sad novel which calls in to question any one who believes that all abortion or a woman's right to choose should be illegal.
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4.0 out of 5 stars One of the themes of the story. Sept. 11 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
In DOWN BY THE RIVER O'Brien one of the more prevalent themes is the treatment of Mary. When everyone finds out she has went to get an abortion, people automatically assume she is a tramp, and this O'Brien portrays how someone can become so set pregnancy is a result of her "wild youthful ways." in their veiws that you fail to gain the facts before rushing to a judgement. Few people bothered to ask Mary is this pregnancy was a result of bad judgement, or a result of someone else's forceful and abusvie actions. O'Brien didn't really the reader a deep insight to how Mary may have felt as the subject of this fierce national debate. It's almost like Mary wasn't allowed to feel, or she was afraid to feel scared, frightened, angry, ashamed, fearful. Few people bothered to find out how Mary felt, it was more about what she was going to or had already attempted to do. O'Brien portrays that the characters became more concerned with the issue itself, than with the person which the issue was about and her feelings.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Tries too hard. June 24 1999
By TJ
Format:Paperback
This book was a disappointment to me, primarily because of several annoying techniques used by the author. First of all, she tries too hard to be poetic and the result is a book that ties itself up in knots of extraneous text. The story suffers from an excess of flowery verse and a lack of direct language. At times we read sentence after sentence which contain no verbs. (e.g., "Soft morning crisp. Starched low-lying lawns ...") At the beginning of one chapter we do not encounter a verb until the 12th sentence.
At other times, the story becomes confusing because the author refuses to call characters or items by name, preferring to refer to them as "he", "she", or "it" when these words could easily apply to several characters or objects. For example, instead of saying "Mary picked up the letter", the author will simply say "She picked it up", and the reader is forced to become Sherlock Holmes just to figure out what the author is talking about. Who is "she"?? What is "it"??? I asked these questions to myself many times while reading this book. Perhaps the author thought such imprecise references sounded more artistic. I was not impressed.
In addition to the flawed writing style, the story itself is rather narrow. Only one character (Mary) is treated as a sympathetic figure, the others being dull and one-dimensional. It was a struggle for me to finish the book, since I really didn't care about most of the characters.
This book could have been much better since the subject matter is timely and intriguing. It's a shame the author overreached so badly.
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