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Oh, Edna O'Brien,

She ain't lying,

You gotta listen

To what she gotta say,

For Edna O'Brien,

She'll have you sighing,

She'll have you crying,

Hey,

She'll blow your mind away.

That's the improvised song that Paul McCartney strummed on the guitar after seeing author Edna O'Brien home one night.

While Richard Burton, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Marlon Brando or John Huston may not have played music to her children, they were among the characters in her full-scale, three-act drama of a memoir, which she began in her 78th year.

So many memoirs of late are so slight, slices of life really, that they seem trivial or inconsequential. "Country Girl" is not one of them. This is a big, robust life, and though one might come for the literary gossip, the lucid prose and sharp insight command one's attention. It's with good reason that this memoir has been placed on so many lists of best books of 2013.

Right from the start O'Brien writes about her downward mobility — a disintegrating house in County Clare, Ireland, to convent school and divorce, but those of us who are admirers know where we're headed. We're in the thrall of one of the most beguiling and resilient contemporary writers, a stylist and a survivor.

Her first novel, "The Country Girls," about what really went on in the claustrophobic little town where the O'Briens lived, scandalized her family when it appeared in 1960. Undeterred, though, she went on to lead a colorful life — parties in London, hanging out with Hollywood stars — but through it all, she's an exuberant literary pioneer.

'Country Girl'

By Edna O'Brien

Little, Brown, 357 pages, $27.99

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