Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien: Review

the little red chairsAccording to Philip Roth, The Little Red Chairs is “a masterpiece”; the best novel Edna O’Brien has ever written. I wonder if Edna greeted the accolade with a gleam in her eye and her trademark mischievous smile. It is, after all ironic that her status as a novelist is recognised more on the world stage than in her own country.  Her early years as a novelist were marked by scorn and derision in her native Ireland. It’s taken more than sixty years for the country to take her back into their bosom.  Last year (long overdue) O’Brien was honoured as a Saoithe of Aosdána, Ireland’s highest literary honour, and with it came a presidential apology for the pious disdain which led to a ban on her books for decades and accusations she had a too-favourable attitude to the Provisional IRA.

But O’Brien has never been a lady who sought a quiet life or opted for the safe topics in her books, despite attracting the soubriquet  “a “bargain basement Molly Bloom” at one time. In The Little Red Chairs she turns her attention to the monstrous acts perpetrated by a tyrant and to his innocent citizens who are forced to take flight and become stateless refugees.  It’s a tremendously haunting novel delivered by someone who has a keenly observant eye and understanding of human nature.

You can read my review at Shiny New Books and Ali’s review last year.

End Notes

The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien was published in the UK by Faber and Faber in 2015. Thanks to the publishers for providing me with a free copy via NetGalley.

If you’re interesting in discovering why O’Brien came to write this book take a look at this interview with The Daily Telegraph.


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

5 thoughts on “Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien: Review

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  • August 28, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    Read your review of this, it won’t let me comment for some,reason. It’s great, very tempted by this. It’s always the dark ones that appeal!

  • January 31, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    High praise, coming from Philip Roth, but long overdue, of course. This one is on my list, and I can’t wait to read it. Thanks for visiting my blog, and for the reminder about Nora Webster, which I’ve now bookmarked on Amazon.

  • January 30, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    O’Brien is a gap in my reading experience which I must do something to fill, especially given that I enjoy other Irish writers so much. Is this a good place to start or would you recommend something else?


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