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The Empty Family: Stories Paperback – January 3, 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
Here is one writer who goes from strength to strength; he seems to just get better with each successive work. While the stories may vary in how satisfying one finds each of the narratives, Toibin's precise ability to catch the ebb and flow of his characters thoughts and emotions remains thrillingly constant. A collection worthy of the author of "The Master" and "Brooklyn".
The Colour of Shadows is my favorite story in this amazing collection of short stories by Irish witer Colm Toibin. As has been written about Toibin before, he is at his most authentic when he is writing about the people and places of Ireland.
This story is heartbreakingly simple: Paul, a gay man, living in Dublin quietly takes over the care of his dying aunt Josie who has raised him. The two are very close (at some level) and have great respect and tenderness for one another. Yet there is one utterance from Josie --near death -- mistaking Paul for a family friend, that momentarily shatters their relationship. Yet the strength of this piece is its simplicity, its quiet style and honest description of the town, the neighbors and his aunt. It never turns into overwrought, confrontational dialogue. The narrator simply tells the tale of deep love marred by the inability of Josie,an otherwise giving and generous person, to understand Paul's homosexuality because of her age and her own upbringing. It is painful, but Paul understands, at some level, that she nevertheless loved him, and took great care of him as a child.
The Irish-born Tóibín is the author of six novels, including THE BLACKWATER LIGHTSHIP, THE MASTER (winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize) and BROOKLYN (winner of the Costa Book Award). He has taught at Stanford, the University of Texas, and Princeton. Whether the setting is Spain, Ireland or the U.S., Tóibín's writing shows a remarkable recognition of history and locale. Reading "One Minus One," he describes a time period when he taught in New York City as "the city was about to enter its last year of innocence." By that brief descriptive passage, Tóibín does far more than establish time. Through the power of literary economy, he describes a moment in history we will never forget.
The title story of the collection is set in California, a coastal locale the narrator treats as a substitute for his Irish homeland. "The Empty Family" reminds us of family, death and home. The narrator understands that home is more than a place; it's life, a combination of experience, objects and family. One can never leave home and family.
Frances Rossiter is the main character in "Two Women." A respected film set designer "almost precisely between seventy-five and eighty," she comes back to Dublin for a movie assignment. Her return brings memories of a long-ago love affair.Read more ›
The Empty Family though falls a little short of its predecessors.
There are some memorable stories here. The opener, `Silence', is a brilliant historical piece about one Lady Gregory, widowed by an elderly husband and abandoned by her true love, who at a dinner party reveals her secret pain to the novelist Henry James as an idea a for a novel. In `Two Women', a rude and domineering set designer is humbled in a surprise encounter with a former rival. `The New Spain' shows us an exile who comes home to post-Franco Spain to find a country, and a family, she doesn't recognize. These first two especially show Toibim's mastery of hidden pain. The last delves into loneliness, also a recurrent theme here.
But there are a few duds this time around. `The Empty Family' requires another reading to decipher, if one would only want to. `Barcelona, 1975' seems to be primarily about sex. (And this is something to be aware of if you haven't read Mothers and Sons: Toibim sometimes likes to get graphic.)
Still, though it's not perfect, Toibim is always worthwhile. But If you haven't read him before, I would start with one of his earlier works, like The Master, Brooklyn, or Mothers and Sons.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The book discussion group read this collection of stores in December 2015. We had a fairly small group (which is great for discussion), who most enthusiastically liked or loved the... Read morePublished 7 months ago by H. Williams
An excellent collection of eclectic short stories set in the present that explore gay themes.Published 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
Rather a mixed batch of stories, ranging from the poor to the interesting. This is certainly not Toibin's best work. Very uneven.Published 10 months ago by Stephen M Finn
I think Colm Toibin is a brilliant writer. One of my favorites. His psychological portraiture is so deft, and his worlds are so atmospheric and precise that being immersed in them... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Sally Schloss
He writes in a voice that is calm and poetic, honest and brutal. You feel you are with his characters in a very personal way. Read morePublished 16 months ago by gejnpa
I don't think many readers like Colm Toibin. Maybe some of them are too young to have experienced the events and emotions that Toibin
depicts. Read more
I did not find The Empty Family Stories my kind of reading. I am a bit of a die hard when it comes to finishing a book so I did read the entire book. It was not a page turner.Published on April 26, 2014 by Constant Reader