Edna O’Brien’s first novel, The Country Girls (1960), was banned and burned in her native Ireland, although she was later described by Philip Roth as ‘the most gifted woman now writing in English’.

O’Brien has been hailed for bringing the interior lives of Irish women - including their sex lives - to the fore through her fiction. She has written some 18 novels as well as short stories, and numerous works of non-fiction and drama - the majority dealing with her home country even though she has lived in England for far longer than she lived there. O’Brien qualified as a pharmacist but turned to fiction in London, where she was paid £25 for her first novel. Around that time she was both a patient of the psychiatrist R.D. Laing and a friend of the reclusive J.D. Salinger.