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Mothers And Sons: Stories Unknown Binding – January 1, 2008


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Product Details

  • Unknown Binding
  • Publisher: Scribner (January 1, 2008)
  • ASIN: B003F4IYVU
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

More About the Author

Colm Toibin is the author of four previous novels, The South, The Heather Blazing, The Story of the Night, and The Blackwater Lightship, which was shortlisted for the 1999 Booker Prize. He lives in Dublin.

Customer Reviews

His mind is fertile and his style of writing is full of grace and feeling.
Grady Harp
As author of five novels (including "The Heather Blazing" and "The Master"), this is his first book of short stories and it continues his theme of alienation.
C. Hutton
Most of us liked the sex in "Three Friends," although we were slightly unsure about the ending.
H. Williams

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of our most intensely refined and challenging writers of the day, Colm Tóibín presents a new set of nine short stories correlated by the theme and title of mothers and sons, stories that mine the always fascinating relationship between mothers and sons, both positive and negative sides. This is writing of such apparent simplicity that the craftsmanship of his work is taken for granted - the mark of a truly fine writer. Here is a collection of stories to be read slowly, allowing time to digest each experience fully before moving on to the next.

'The Use of Reason' explores a son's theft of valuable art and the consequences of his actions result in a confrontation with his alcoholic mother that supercedes the criminal act. In the brief 'The Song' a young musician almost mistakenly hears his miscreant mother singing a ballad that should erase years of desertion just as in 'Famous Blue Raincoat' the son discovers songs his mother recorded with her hippie sister before disaster struck the drug-impacted band. In 'The Name of the Game' a mother attempts to recover the errors of her deceased husband in making a life for her son, unknowingly at odds with her son's true needs and goals. A mother faces the infamy of her priest son when his history of sexual abuse surfaces in 'A Priest in the Family', and in 'A Summer Job' the devotion of a son to his grandmother overshadows his relationship to his mother. In 'Three Friends' and 'A Long Winter' Tóibín delicately and with subtle sensitivity introduces same sex themes to embroider stories of strong and powerful tales. For this reader 'A Long Winter' (the longest of the stories) is so excellent it could be stretched into an entire novel!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on January 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
There's little doubt that Irish culture holds in considerable regard the ability to tell an absorbing tale. The country's literature boasts a rich tradition of compelling short story writers --- among them James Joyce, Frank O'Connor and the modern master, William Trevor. Fresh from his acclaimed novel of the life of Henry James, THE MASTER, Colm Tóibín, in his first collection of short fiction, shows that he has the talent to someday join their august company.

MOTHERS AND SONS recognizes that perhaps no other family relationship is more fraught with the tension between intimacy and distance than this one. In the thematically linked stories of this collection, all but one of which are set in modern-day Ireland, Tóibín chooses to emphasize the circumstances that isolate mothers and sons and the failures of communication that often make it impossible to bridge that gap.

The stories in MOTHERS AND SONS don't feature much in the way of dramatic action and tend to be somewhat monochromatic in their tone and pacing. What Tóibín offers that more than compensates for these shortcomings is his gift for sharp and often painful glimpses into the lives of characters struggling to deal with the harsh reality life has handed them. Typical of these insights is the one that appears at the conclusion of "A Journey," the shortest story in the collection. There, Sally contemplates the grim scene that confronts her when she returns home with her 20-year-old son who's been hospitalized for depression, and enters the bedroom where her husband lies crippled from a stroke.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. A. Daye on January 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Two stories in this book, The Long Winter and Three Friends, are reason enough to read through the rest of this rather bleak and poignant collection. A certain thematic relentlessness is probably inherent in a book of short stories, if only because rather than hiding out in a longer work, an author's obsessions divulge themselves again and again once character and setting are no longer the central concern.

This is certainly the case in Mothers and Sons, where the characters' refusal to exit their own orbs and connect with one another, where the dead bodies don't turn up and the mysteries of their deaths are never solved, is sometimes maddening, sometimes enlightening and almost always sad. Perhaps singling out The Long Winter and Three Friends, the two stories in the book where the characters are able to take refuge in a ramshackle semblance of intimacy, is to miss some darker point; all the same, there is something quite moving in the awkward tenderness of these two stories- both of which involve a mother's death and a son's taking comfort with another man- which gives the booka depth and complexity it would lack without them. These are hardly what one would call romantic stories- in fact, there is a not so subtle desperation at work, a stong sense of pity and escape, in both the encounters- but without them, Mothers and Sons might just be too easy an invitation to despair. Still and all, a highly recommended book by a thoughtful, interesting writer.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By C. Hutton on December 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Colm Toibin is an Irish novelist who explores the theme of people not wanting to being known, even to themselves. As author of five novels (including "The Heather Blazing" and "The Master"), this is his first book of short stories and it continues his theme of alienation. The writing is brilliant and descriptive with his tales set in Ireland and Spain (where he lived in Barcelona for a time). The reader will not find a happy resolution in these stories but of mothers and sons not connecting, not reaching out to the other. His characters are fascinating and diverse but not heroic on a interpersonal basis. The reader will read these tales over nine nights but not in one sitting.
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