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Lady Gregory's Toothbrush Paperback – September 5, 2003

3.9 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

'Biographical portraits are too often nowadays smudged in a surfeit of words... this one is a brilliant illumination' Spectator

About the Author

Colm Toibin was born in Ireland in 1955. He is the author of four novels, The South, The Heather Blazing, The Story of the Night and The Blackwater Lightship, which was shortlisted for the 1999 Booker Prize. His non-fiction includes Bad Blood, Homage to Barcelona, The Sign of the Cross and Love in a Dark Time. His work has been translated into seventeen languages. He lives in Dublin.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; New Ed edition (September 5, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330419935
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330419932
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.3 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #701,854 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kathryn Pon on May 18, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Reading James Joyce, I've needed more background. This lively biography of a woman with morphing identity held my attention for a close reading in one gulp. A woman who dined with kings and emperors; whose income came from Irish tenants under pressure from eviction; a former Protestant proselytizer, she may have provided indispensable support of the creative and intellectual efforts which forged an Irish national culture.

Toibin's history of Lady Gregory's and Yeats' relationship is a focal point. As benefactor, she bankrolled him. She let him take credit for her writing. They prevailed together in defending their theater productions against censorship.

The dilemmas we perceive may not have weighed as greatly on her. Toibin concludes: “But her eye remained on her goal: to establish Ireland's ancient past as part of its present culture and to produce contemporary Irish masterpieces in an Irish theatre. She put all her steely energy into this and she succeeded, turning a blind eye to the parts of her own heritage that did not suit her purpose. She lived in two worlds: one of them became the Irish Free State and she was proud of that. The other one disappeared.”

This is the first nonfiction book I've read about Ireland. I do not find it requires any previous familiarity with the subject. I found the google and wikipedia functions in the ebook sufficient annotation. The two Yeats poems written about Lady Gregory and Coole were available in free ebook.
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Format: Hardcover
The tension of the Anglo-Irish, Toibin argues, can be charted in Lady Gregory's own life, as she negotiated the difficult balancing act of a Coole landowner hosting balls for British nobles before going off to her next social engagement, a tea party for the ladies in the local workhouse. Speaking of the latter, the infamous if well-intended Famine-era "Gregory Act" enacted by her family, that pushed off so many from their small plot of land into emigration, ironically making the conditions for those who remained behind in Ireland better off, is delved into efficiently. Toibin, with sympathy but not apology, notes how she, no less than Pearse, Joyce, O'Casey, Synge, Hyde, Gonne, or Yeats during the period from 1890-1925 (for those among the Revival who managed to live through the Rising and the subsequent strife), had to constantly reinvent and embroider and disguise her contested Irish identity. This extended essay, more a monograph than a full-fledged book, briefly sums up the general trajectory of how the rise of the Free State paralled the life and successes of the coterie led in no small part not only by the more prominent and grandstanding Yeats but also by Lady G.

It's not recommended for those who may be unfamiliar with "The Countess Cathleen," for example, or the plays put on by Yeats, her, and their colleagues/rivals for the Abbey Theatre. While a well-chosen list of primary sources and scholarship is appended, no footnotes are given, and Toibin seems to expect his readers to be already familiar with the Irish political, cultural and literary currents of the early 20c. Little description of her writings and no literary analysis to speak of can be found here. Rather, Toibin seeks to uncover what the title of the book indicates: the gap that Lady G.
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This was a fairly good summary of Lady Gregory's influence on Irish theatre and the nationalistic movement. I was a bit surprised at how anti-feminist this woman was. She seemed not only to distrust but to dislike other women. Nevertheless, she played a major role in the resurrection of Irish literature and culture, and she was friend and patron to Yeats, Singh, O'Casey and others.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
My reading of this book was rather personal since we visited Coole Park and the Yates Museum in Co. Galway last summer and have been to the Abbey Theatre several times. Thinking about "The Master" as well, this is the kind of writing that Toibin does best. It is really beautifully executed.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read just about everything that I've found available (in English) of Colm Toibin. As the list of books has grown, I've come to appreciate his candor and writing skills. I appreciated Lady Gregory's Toothbrush because of this refreshing presentation of history. Toibin's connecting of historical persons was delightful since this doesn't often seem to be done (and done so extremely well) by many other authors. Lady Gregory was a real 'corker' to use a bit of slang, someone I just might have enjoyed knowing. I hope some day to connect with Colm Toibin. If his writing style is anything at all like he speaks, he would certainly be more than a delight as someone with whom to spend time!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have long been interested in Irish History, particularly during the fight for Independence. Although I've read many books on the subject, many of which make mention of Lady Gregory, I knew little about her. Colm Toibin did a great job of making her story accessible and full of life.
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Interesting history on Ireland.
It was a long, hard reading but interesting as I plowed through it. So much going on and so many personalities. I plan on reading it again in order to sort things out. Some of my ancestors arrived from Ireland in the New World in the 1600's fleeing for their lives after their lands were confiscated and this history helps me understand some of that history.
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