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The Heather Blazing
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About the Author

Colm Toibin was born in Ireland in 1955. He is the author of six novels, most recently Brooklyn, the 2009 Costa Novel of the Year, and The Master, shortlisted for the 2004 Man Booker Prize. He has also written two collections of stories, The Empty Family and Mothers and Sons, and several works of non-fiction.

Reviews

Scholarly, aloof Eamon Redmond became a judge in Dublin's high court at a relatively young age after a lonely childhood. His meticulously constructed judgments adhere so strictly to the letter of the law that room for appeal is impossible. But what of compassion? Why do his wife and children turn their backs on his decisions? This novel is more a character study than the action-packed tale suggested by the title. The narrative leapfrogs from past to present as Redmond, the motherless boy, plods along with his father, listening to tales of earlier uprisings. His happiest times, as both man and boy, come when he is swimming or walking along the southern Irish coast. When his wife of many years dies and he is truly alone, solitude is no longer the prize he once sought. Toibin ( The South , LJ 7/91) has a subtle way of ensnaring the reader into Redmond's life. Recommended for serious fiction collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/92.-- Marion Hanscom, Binghamton Univ. Lib., N.Y.

Irish novelist Toibin here follows up his Irish Times /Aer Lingus Irish Literature Award-winning first book, The South , with another extended study in paralysis--not the physical kind, but rather the willed emotional stasis that James Joyce, in a famous formulation, contended gripped the Irish soul. The hero here is Eamon Redmond, a High Court judge in Dublin who is readying for retirement. He and his wife, Carmel, are thinking of moving permanently to the south coast, near Enniscorthy, a place filled with childhood memories for them both. As they contemplate the joys of their autumn years, strains in their relations emerge: their unwed daughter announces she is pregnant; Eamon writes an unpopular opinion in a civil rights case; and Carmine accuses Eamon of always having been distant (``You sound bored. It is one of the things that you have learned to do over the years''). Toibin's acclaimed prose style--measured and restrained as a Victorian memoir yet poetic in precision--makes a character of the brooding, enigmatic Irish weather and gives voice to the darker side of the Irish character. As in Joyce's stories in Dubliners , the proceedings lead to an epiphany of sorts, as Eamon finds himself doting on his grandson at the shore. A small advance in the moral education of Eamon Redmond, yes; but under Toibin's generous, forgiving gaze, the moment rings profound. (Feb.)

It is impossible to read Toibin without being moved, touched and finally changed. * Independent on Sunday *
Proceeds with stately grace from past to present, incident to incident, slowly forming, as it moves, the full shape of a man's public and private life. * Washington Post *
If Colm Toibin were a singer you would say he had perfect pitch. * Spectator *

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