- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Scribner; 1st Scribner Paperback Fiction Ed edition (June 5, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0743203313
- ISBN-13: 978-0743203319
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 81 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #281,650 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Blackwater Lightship: A Novel Paperback – June 5, 2001
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Francine Prose Elle Beautifully crafted...spare and devastating...
The Wall Street Journal The Blackwater Lightship is the most perfect work on the Booker list...The prose is economical and deft, and the book is rich with entrancing stories.
Jim Marks The Washington Post Book World ...supple, beautifully modulated prose, complex relationships and careful construction...a powerful and absorbing novel.
Mark Levin Men's Journal Tóibín is a superb technician with a brave soul. The Blackwater Lightship is a great and humanizing novel.
Robert Sullivan Vogue Tóibín writes with high-voltage restraint.
Judy Lightfoot The Seattle Times So much is here and you long to grasp it whole...the best new novel this reviewer has read all year.
About the Author
Colm Tóibín is the author of nine novels, including The Blackwater Lightship; The Master, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Brooklyn, winner of the Costa Book Award; The Testament of Mary; and Nora Webster, as well as two story collections. He is the Irene and Sidney B. Silverman Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University. Three times shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Tóibín lives in Dublin and New York.
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This is an outstanding look at the tortured relationships that exist in many families, and at the pain of being gay and dying of AIDS in the earlier years. In this family AIDS brings the family back together, forcing grown daughter, mother and grandmother to individually look at the trauma of earlier deaths and their impact. Late in the story, Helen (grown daughter) is with Lily (mother) and suddenly realizes that as a child her feeling was that Lily left with Dad and came home without him and was never again even the same Mammy. Helen went to her Dad's funeral and overheard mentions of cancer before he died but feelings aren't always rational.
Helen's younger brother Declan is near death from AIDS and their mother and grandmother don't know he's gay. When he leaves the hospital he wants to be taken to their grandmother's home, the home where he and Lily were "abandoned" for long months as their father lost his battle with cancer. They arrived unannounced and two of Declan's gay friends arrive almost immediately to care for him.
Without ever providing a date, this is clearly in the early years of AIDS when a diagnosis was a death sentence. I had a blood transfusion not long before AIDS arrived and was routinely tested for years. My brother was diagnosed with AIDS at a time when he could have contracted the virus before it was even known. Before he died in 1997 tremendous advances had been made, and he lived relatively healthy for many years, but AIDS still meant lingering illness before inevitable death. Like Declan, he kept the family at a distance once symptoms became a disability and relied on gay friends for support, only reconnecting weeks before his death.
I mention the personal connection as sort of a disclaimer. Nevertheless, the book is masterfully written. The characters gradually arrive at a new understanding of their old divisive traumas and arrive at a place where a future is possible. It had been 10 years since Helen made the decision not to invite or even notify Lily of her marriage. Lily has never met her son-in-law or her grandsons, so the uncomfortable permission for them to meet them is a major step. Toibin did not make the mistake of making the reconnection quick, comfortable or guarantee sustainability.
This will surely become a classic.
Helen is a mom & a wife & a teacher, seems to have a loving marriage. Her husband & 2 sons head out for the start of a vacation & Helen is looking forward to some alone time....a visitor arrives & things change. We see a week or so in the lives of Helen, her mom, her grandmother, her brother & a few other people. In that week we actually get a little glimpse of a lifetime with Helen.
An estranged relationship between mother & daughter & the needs of a son & brother hopefully help get this family to somehow maybe have a chance to get together again.
Colm's female character's seem to have similar ways about them in the few books of his I have read, rather cold & remote & removed on the outside but carrying a lot of love & hurt inside....very interested to know what his childhood & relationship with his mom was.
I am still gathering my thoughts on this one....tough read.