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Tóibín, Colm

family irish writing james

(Irish, 1955– )

Novelist and journalist, Tóibín has edited a collection of Irish fiction and written a travel book about Europe's Catholics. His writing deals with universal themes of death, loss, and the family but the rapid changes in Irish mores over the last fifty years inevitably influence his writing. Shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1999, The Blackwater Lightship focuses on the dying Declan Devereux, a gay man, and his sister Helen. He summons his friends and family to his grandmother's house and this is the catalyst for revisiting the generational grudge between the women of his family. The Heather Blazing (Encore award, 1992) looks at the gap between principle and the messy reality of human lives. Judge Eamon Redmond is close to yet curiously remote from his wife Carmel and his adult children, preferring the intellectual clarity of the law. The novel moves back and forth between his childhood, family deaths, and the post-civil war politics of Ireland. Redmond experiences a deepening of his relationship with his children after Carmel's death. The Story of the Night (1996) is set in Argentina and examines issues of sexual identity against the changing political climate.

Toibin was Booker shortlisted again with The Master (2004), a deeply moving exploration of the life of Henry James, which takes the reader into James's head and heart, revealing the emotional cost of his dedication to writing.

John McGahern, Brian Moore, Henry James. See IRELAND  TO/JR

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