Five Short Stories–Edna O’Brien’s “A Demon”

Course NameLocationDurationDateTime
Five Short StoriesWaterstones PiccadillyFive weeks20 Sept - 16 Oct6:30-8:30 PM


Edna O’Brien broke away from her fiercely Catholic upbringing in provincial Ireland and ran off to London with a man to be a writer. Her first book The Country Girls, published in 1960, broke all the taboos about sex, scandalised Ireland and was banned. She never looked back.

In this story, published in 1990, O’Brien is on top form. It is a perfect example of her lyrical style, her comical characterisations, her sharp observations about family dynamics and provincial moeurs, her use of the vernacular.

The story is told from the point of view of 9 year old Meg who is setting off on a journey with her family to visit her brother who is studying in a monastery and to bring her sister Nancy home from the convent. Nancy is unwell and has taken to her bed. But Meg is holding a secret and the demon of the title makes its appearance on the very last page.


“They had gone astray which caused them to lose an hour; the driver had taken the wrong road and was heading towards home when he said, “Jaysus!” and reversed to a crossroads where there was a batch of signs. He got out to read them and came back and told of his error.

“it could happen to a bishop,” Meg’s father said, but her mother was not pleased. The convent shut at nine, and there was no way they could drive again the next day to fetch their daughter. Not much sympathy was evinced for the daughter’s illness, at least not yet. She was a willful girl, and had often filched her mother’s dance dresses and fallals, and when she came home on holiday she slept late, then got up, had a big breakfast and went off gallivanting. She was not a homebody.”


Come and read O’Brien’s wonderfully evocative prose with me at Waterstones Mezzanine Piccadilly on Wednesday 11 October from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm as part of the Short Story Series.  —Carol Martin-Sperry