Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Author Colm Toibin is an Irish writer and the author of many novels and short stories including Brooklyn, The Master, and The Blackwater Lightship: A Novel. Bookslut (gotta love that name!) has an interview with the author and in it he shares some interesting perspectives on writing and his works. You can also check out the review of one of Toibin's short stories by Joann from Lakeside Musing. I am anxiously awaiting my turn at Brooklyn (my Mom has it right now) but I have read a few of Toibin's works and thought I would do a double review . . .
I first discovered the author a number of years ago when I read Blackwater Lightship - I was gripped by the beauty of Toibin's prose. Although melancholy pervades this novel about a young man, Declan, who returns to his grandmother's home on the coast of Ireland as he is dying of AIDS, the writing is so beautiful that I didn't want to put the book down. The characters drawn by the author are complex which makes this novel so compelling. Declan's family, unaware of the disease he has been fighting, bring all their unresolved issues to the house; the interplay of those issues and the realization by Declan's sister, mother and grandmother that he is dying make for powerful scenes. The scenes, however, are quietly powerful which somehow seems very Irish - there are no impassioned outbursts of emotion. Another draw to the novel for me was it's setting - Enniscorthy, Co Wexford. I have family from this part of Ireland and spent some time visiting the beaches here when I was a child. Toibin described the seaside so beautifully in the novel and I felt as if I had returned.
The Master is Toibin's fictionalized portrait of the author Henry James. Before reading this novel, I had not read anything by James. I wonder if my experience with The Master would have been different if I had read some of Henry James's works or was at least acquainted with his life. Despite this ignorance, I still really enjoyed Toibin's master. Again, as with Blackwater Lightship, the beautiful writing impressed me and I felt carried through the novel by it. This is not a book, however, that you read quickly. The pace is slow and the subject, Henry James, is difficult to get to know. Although you don't need to have read James before reading this novel, I imagine the book would seem even richer with the knowledge of James and his works.