Sarah Hughes in The Guardian:
Most people approaching their 90th birthday would be forgiven for deciding that, whatever their work, enough was enough and it was time to relax. Most people, however, are not Edna O’Brien. Ireland’s greatest living writer has over the past week delivered this year’s TS Eliot lecture on Eliot and James Joyce for Dublin’s Abbey Theatre – Covid-19 meant that it was recorded at the Irish Embassy in London and will be broadcast on her birthday – and won the South Bank Sky Arts award for literature for her recent novel, Girl, a harrowing, heartbreaking tale about the girls kidnapped in Nigeria by Boko Haram. On Tuesday she celebrates her birthday.
It will, she says, be a relatively quiet affair. “I’m going to see my agent and my son Sasha, and there will be one other person – I hope that’s allowed. My other son, Carlo, lives in Enniskillen [in Northern Ireland] so he can’t come.”
There is something magical about being in O’Brien’s company. It’s not simply that at almost 90 she remains a bewitching presence, tiny, beautifully dressed in black jacket and skirt with an intricate silver necklace, her red hair perfectly styled. Her house itself, a narrow terrace in London’s Chelsea which she rents, has an aura about it from the cosy downstairs kitchen to the book-stacked shelves of her office – “The books are taking over,” she laughs at one point. “They’re everywhere…”