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The Pen Friend Hardcover – May 24, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Blackstaff Pr; First Edition edition (May 24, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0856408158
  • ISBN-13: 978-0856408151
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,652,220 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Surprisingly effective as a novel. When a bomb goes off in a café, it showers the narrative with a kind of Belfast confetti, shrapnel-sharp questions that lend the story of Gabriel and Nina a new urgency. --Virginia Quarterly Review

Carson's prose works collectively reveal a mind at work, a mond that is well worth attending to as it begins to make sense of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. --World Literature Today

This is unmistakably a novel written by a poet whose sense of the porousness of language speaks to both a post-modern sensibility and the acute ear of a bilingual writer. --Irish Literary Supplement

About the Author

CIARAN CARSON is Professor of Poetry and Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen's University Belfast. His translation of the Old Irish epic Tain Bo Cuailnge (The Tain) was published by Penguin Classics in 2007. He has published numerous collections of poetry, including The New Estate (Blackstaff Press, 1976) which won the Eric Gregory Award; and he has written two prose books, including The Pocket Guide to Irish Traditional Music (The Appletree Press, 1996). He is a member of Aosdana and lives in Belfast.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Damaskcat on June 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Gabriel Conway - retired art curator - receives a post card out of the blue from someone who was very important to him in the past. He sits down to write to her even though he has no address to which to send the letter. He talks about their relationship and about books, art, perfume and pens. He talks about anything which comes into his mind as he thinks of the relationship which is so important to him. What follows is a series of letters which gradually reveal the relationship between Gabriel and Iris/Miranda/Nina prompted by Gabriel's receipt of further enigmatic post cards. The post cards are reproduced at the beginning of the chapter to which they relate.

Poignant, subtle, disturbing, painful, amusing the letters are all those things and more. The writing is exquisite and conjures up many pictures for the reader. It is an excursion into the power of memory - an examination of the way sights, sounds and smells can trigger memories and open up whole new networks of association. The subjects touched upon range from eBay - an excellent source for pen collectors - to perfumes, Irish history, clothes, language, relationships and the universal language Esperanto on which Gabriel is writing a book.

This is a novel which can be read on so many levels and which will repay re-reading. I'm sure it will be one of those books which I find something new in every time I read it. The relationship which is central to the novel is well drawn and believable with all its misunderstandings and misapprehensions. I liked the characters and I wanted to see Nina herself in her own words as well as just seeing her through Gabriel's eyes. As well as marvellous writing this book is well designed and a pleasure to hold and read with its smooth creamy paper, clear type and the ribbon bookmark.
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Format: Hardcover
written by Ciaran Carson

This is the first book I've ever read that had a blue marker ribbon. What a surprise, every book should have one.

Besides this little added tid-bit of ingenuity, the book The Pen Friend written by Ciaran Carson was a delight to read.

In the story Gabriel Conway receives a letter from his ex. A post card.

He sits down to write her back. Once past the first chapter you realize this guy is anal. A detailist! A collector of fine things as you will see.

I have had some experience with fountain pens myself so I can relate, once owning an antique store. I know there is much more to a fountain pen than meets the eye. At one time a very collectable item and probably still is. A pen collector the most die hard of all collectors, right up there with stamp and coin collecting.

The book gets a little tiring with so much minute detail, you will need that blue ribbon page marker. Reading a double page a sitting is all I could muster. That blue ribbon had it's workout.

I give this book five stars, if it were any longer maybe I'd drop it to four.


Michael Estey
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By Rob Mills on February 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Carson has written another great book, and, like his "Belfast Confetti", "First Language", and "Shamrock Tea", poetry and prose blend like truth and fiction to create an insightful meditation on love, friendship and writing.
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