The destruction of innocence is one of the most powerful and universal of all themes, and Edna O’Brien has been dealing with it throughout her impressively long and productive life as a writer. Her great subject has been the various ways in which the lives of women, especially young women and especially in Ireland, where she was born and emotionally belongs, have been damaged by bigotry, convention and cruelty. At the same time she has always understood and celebrated love and goodness, so that her stories are seldom unremittingly dark. This remains true in what must be one of the darkest stories of violated innocence ever told. In Girl, her twentieth novel, she dramatises the experiences of a Nigerian adolescent kidnapped by the Islamic fundamentalist sect Boko Haram.
O’Brien was thirty when her first book, The Country Girls, based on her own memories of being a teenager from rural Ireland released into seedy Dublin, came out in 1960 and immediately established her as a fresh, funny, subversive voice, unafraid to cause outrage and break taboos, especially