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33 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine, glimmering brilliance
Kirkus Reviews blurb reprinted above is absolutely foolish. This is a magnificent novel, but one which, as Tobias Wolff has said, "repays attention", i.e., one must be willing to give oneself over to Toibin's deceptively simple prose. The cummulative affect of the chapters, as a picture of a life, is devastatingly poignant, but this poignance will only come...
Published on September 1, 1998 by jfriend@ziplink.net

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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent writing; troubling characters
Yes, Colm Toibin really can write. But Irish families... Ugh. I don't want to read anymore books about them. They are so cold, so silent. It must be how they really are, but I just can't take reading about them. It's too sad. The main character is so COLD. The plot is thin, too.
Published on January 29, 2008 by J. Rosenberg


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33 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine, glimmering brilliance, September 1, 1998
This review is from: The Heather Blazing (Paperback)
Kirkus Reviews blurb reprinted above is absolutely foolish. This is a magnificent novel, but one which, as Tobias Wolff has said, "repays attention", i.e., one must be willing to give oneself over to Toibin's deceptively simple prose. The cummulative affect of the chapters, as a picture of a life, is devastatingly poignant, but this poignance will only come through careful attention. A quiet masterpiece.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A deeply emotional, deeply moving, February 25, 2008
The Heather Blazing by Colm Toibin is a deeply emotional, deeply moving book. It's the story of Eamon Redmond, a complex man, grown on tender roots, influential friends, a keen intellect and a tangible distance between himself and those whom he loves.

The book is set in three parts, each of which dips in and out of time. We are with Eamon as a child in the small Wexford seaside villages he forever regards as home. Coastal erosion changes them over time and provides, in itself, a metaphor of aging, both of the individual and the community. Eamon's schoolteacher father is a significant figure, both locally as a renowned teacher, and nationally as a result of what he accomplished in his youth in the furtherance of Irish independence and political development. Eamon's mother died when he was young, an act for which, perhaps, he could never forgive her.

We also see Eamon as an adolescent, hormones abuzz, becoming aware of adulthood, a physical, intellectual and, for him, a political transformation. But it is also a time when his father's illness complicates his life. Throughout, we are never sure whether Eamon's perception of such difficulty remains primarily selfish, driven by self-interest. If we are honest, none of us knows how that equation works out.

We are with Eamon when he meets Carmel, his future and only wife. They share a political commitment and a life together. And they have two children. Naimh becomes pregnant at a crucial time. Donal is successful in his own way, but perhaps inherited his father's distance in relationships.

And then there's another time and another Eamon, the professional, the legal Eamon. At first he practices law, but later, at a relatively early age, he accepts a politically-driven appointment to the judiciary. He has powerful sponsors, but also toys a little with the idea that he is being kicked upstairs. The moment, however, is his, no matter how dubious the source of the patronage. And then there are the cases that he has to judge, cases that impact in their own way upon the substance of his own life, his own family, whatever that might be, however the entity might be defined. It remains a substance that is perceived mainly by others, it seems, as he enacts his training and judges other people's experience according to rules he has dutifully learned so that he might apply them dispassionately.

So Colm Toibin mixes these time frames and circumstances in each of the book's three sections. We are also presented with some intellectual arguments arising from the substance of the judge's daily routine, issues with which he must grapple in his assessment of competing interests. Eventually he must address the dichotomy of terrorism versus political action, a definition that, years ago, might have left his own father on this side or that, if ever he had been identified.

Eamon's friends, in hindsight, might not have been the most worthy or honest sponsors, and so, again only with hindsight, we might question his judgment. But the pursuance of interests, like life, itself, is a process, and a process that The Heather Blazing describes in its richness and illusory permanence. As the Wexford coast erodes, Eamon ages, changes, succeeds, fails, loves and loves again, all in his own way. He engages us, and yet we, like the trusting, thoughtful Carmel, his wife, we never really know him, and we never really understand why we feel that way. If only he knew himself. A quite beautiful book. Life goes on.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "A Judge in Ireland", April 4, 2001
This review is from: The Heather Blazing (Paperback)
I didn't really like Judge Eamon Redmond until I was almost through with this book. He certainly didn't show much emotion at all through most of the story. However, my whole attitude and judgement of him changed so much by the end of this engrossing story. When Eamon was very young he stood by silently and passively watching his father die (his mother was already dead), and then when he was older and a well-respected Judge, he watched as his wife Carmel die after having a stroke. Both of these dead's and there influence on Eamon's life are minutely detailed here. Eamon seems to be an intense and very lonely person. Yes, there is some attention given to his first girlfriend, and his children (who barely know their father) but the turning point, I think, is after Carmel dies. I think Eamon finally finds his heart, and the love he was too busy to recognize before. The ending is wonderful.
Colm Toibin has a way of beautifully describing family life and especially the landscape of Ireland. I learned a lot about Irish politics of that time, and how a judge makes his important decisions. A well-crafted novel from an author who has written many powerful books. I am always touched by his rich & moving novels.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sensitive Northern Existentialism, December 28, 2011
By 
Rune Rindel Hansen (Copenhagen, Denmark) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Heather Blazing (Paperback)
This is a bittersweet tale about life. It has a quite northern-latitude-temperament. The style of the writer is somehow particular, but its hard to point out, what particular it is which is making out his style. Colm's story is sensitive and he dwells upon heavy existential subjects, like your parents are dead or the death of a loved one. Eventhough I sense this book has qualities I must admit that I am not quite sure if this book relates particularly to me. But I think I will read it a second time. By the way, to get a fuller experience of this book, you should properly drink red wine as you read it. Often during the account the sea plays a part, and there is something interesting about that. You also feel the experiences and emotions of the writer quite close. The story seems private and intimate. You are in his head, heart, body and eyes.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eamon stirs excruciating sympathy through his intense loneli, April 8, 1998
This review is from: The Heather Blazing (Paperback)
The story of Eamon Redmond evokes an intense poignancy of loneliness and illustrates how this loneliness empties into the lives of those closest to him. It is a profound portrayal of constraint and struggle within those limits.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Try it!, March 3, 2013
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This review is from: The Heather Blazing (Paperback)
For fans of Toibin, this book is typical fare. For the uninitiated, you will find Toibin to be economically eloquent and able to draw vivid characters with what seems to be great ease. Much of his work focuses on relationships broken in some way. This book is no different. What keeps me coming back to his work is the beauty of his writing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, December 27, 2010
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This review is from: The Heather Blazing (Paperback)
I really enjoyed this book and discovering Colm Toibin. It is beautifully written and masterful at capturing the subtleties of relationships.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent writing; troubling characters, January 29, 2008
Yes, Colm Toibin really can write. But Irish families... Ugh. I don't want to read anymore books about them. They are so cold, so silent. It must be how they really are, but I just can't take reading about them. It's too sad. The main character is so COLD. The plot is thin, too.
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The Heather Blazing
The Heather Blazing by Colm Toibin (Paperback - March 1, 1994)
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