Edna O’Brien

Edna O’Brien is an award-winning Irish author of novels, plays, and short stories. She has received, among other honours, the Irish PEN Award for Literature, the Ulysses Medal from University College Dublin, the Frank O’Connor Prize, and a lifetime achievement award from the Irish Literary Academy. Her 1960 debut novel, The Country Girl, was banned in her native Ireland for its ground-breaking depictions of female sexuality. Notable works also include August Is a Wicked Month (1965), A Pagan Place (1970), Lantern Slides (1990), and The Light of Evening (2006).

What a journey Edna O’Brien has brought her readers on, giving us luminous and sometimes savage glimpses of shame, desire and cruelty. She announced herself with The Country Girls, a chronicle of the inner lives and fraught friendships of a pair of Irish teenagers, a book burned and banned in her home place. That almost sixty years later, she travelled to Lagos – her underwear stuffed with cash with which to bribe officials – to meet former child captives of Boko Haram, seems at once astonishing and inevitable.

For her glorious way with language, her persistence and her devotion to the truth, we are thrilled to award the Pleasure of Reading Prize to Edna O’Brien.” Louise Kennedy

For over six decades Edna O’Brien has carved a singular niche through modern literature. Her work, like her life, is bold, brave and sometimes visionary. She didn’t so much open doors as kick them down, and in doing so repositioned the novel in Irish writing, inspiring successive generations of key writers who followed.Benjamin Myers

Edna O’Brien has chosen to support Raising Readers

The Pleasure of Reading prize 2022: "Language is what confirms the miracle of a book and the certainty of its survival. It has a newness and at the same time,
the breath of an ancient flame." - Edna O'Brien, Winner's Speech
Read Edna O’Brien’s Winner’s Speech, here.

Find out more about some of Edna O’Brien’s favourite reads, with our Book of the Month, here.

The Pleasure of Reading Prize judges:    

  • Lady Antonia Fraser, CH, writer and biographer (Chair)  
  • Ali Smith, Author and The Pleasure of Reading Prize Winner 2021
  • Benjamin Myers, poet, journalist and Bloomsbury author
  • Louise Kennedy, novelist and Bloomsbury author 
  • Victoria Gray, Executive Director of Give a Book