O'Brien's works often revolve around the inner feelings of women, and their problems in relating to men, and to society as a whole. Her first novel, ''The Country Girls'' (1960), is often credited with breaking silence on sexual matters and social issues during a repressive period in Ireland following the Second World War. The book was banned, burned and denounced from the pulpit. Faber and Faber published her memoir, ''Country Girl'', in 2012. O'Brien lives in London.