O'Brien is credited for paving the way for a new generation of Irish writers such as Anne Enright, Nuala O'Faolain and Colm Toibin. Her 1981 play, Virginia, about Virginia Woolf, was staged in both Canada and London. In 1999, she published a biography of James Joyce. She has received numerous awards for her works, including a Kingsley Amis Award in 1962 and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in 1990 for Lantern Slides. In 2006, she was appointed adjunct professor of English Literature in University College, Dublin. In 2009, O'Brien was honored with the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award at the Irish Book Awards in Dublin.
Mary Louise Parker on The Country Girls Trilogy