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The Empty Family: Storiesby Colm Toibin
Synopses & Reviews
Colm Tóibín’s exquisitely written new stories, set in present-day Ireland, 1970s Spain and nineteenth century England, are about people linked by love, loneliness and desire. Tóibín is a master at portraying mute emotion, intense intimacies that remain unacknowledged or unspoken. In this stunning collection, he cements his status as “his generation’s most gifted writer of love’s complicated, contradictory power” (Los Angeles Times).
“Silence” is a brilliant historical set piece about Lady Gregory, widowed and abandoned by her lover, who tells the writer Henry James a confessional story at a dinner party. In “Two Women,” an eminent Irish set designer, aloof and prickly, takes a job in her homeland, and is forced to confront devastating emotions she has long repressed. “The New Spain” is the story of an intransigent woman who returns home after a decade in exile and shatters the fragile peace her family has forged in the post-Franco world. And in the breathtaking long story “The Street,” Tóibín imagines a startling relationship between two Pakistani workers in Barcelona — a taboo affair in a community ruled by obedience and silence.
Tóibín’s characters are often difficult and combative, compelled to disguise their vulnerability and longings. Yet he unmasks them, and in doing so offers us a set of extraordinarily moving stories that remind us of the fragility and individuality of human life. As The New York Review of Books has said, Tóibín “understands the tenuousness of love and comfort — and, after everything, its necessity.”
"Tóibín returns to his native shores from Brooklyn for the bulk of these nine pristine stories, all — save one — contemporary tales of lives haunted by loss, whether it's the legacy of a sexually abusive priest in an already complicated love triangle in 'The Pearl Fishers,' the long-absent gay son who returns to Dublin from New York to attend to his mother's last moments in 'One Minus One,' or the aching void that greets an academic's return to a family home on the Irish coast in the wistful title story. Affairs, airports, and deathbeds populate a mature prose that's as tender with descriptions of sexual, often gay, love as it is with the heart's more inexpressible reaches, never more so than in the complex 'The Street,' where two Pakistanis find love in the repressive backdrop of blue-collar Barcelona only to be met with violence and a curious captivity. These stories go a long way toward establishing Tóibín as heir to William Trevor, with reverberations that show how life encompasses more than the living. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Befitting an author who straddles cultures...he peoples his stories with characters trying to navigate between different countries, often involving some reconciliation of a past and present....Likely to rank with the best story collections of the year." Kirkus Reviews
"This book, then, is short story writing as dazzling yet serious as it is practiced today." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Tóibín's characteristically lyrical prose seems even more elegantly economical in this volume; this spareness enhances the beauty, sometimes aching, that emerges from observations and dialog....Tóibín exhibits his familiar stylistic simplicity while extending his emotional reach." Library Journal
The acclaimed author of the novels The South and The Blackwater Lightship presents a new collection of short stories.
On the heels of his breakout success, the bestselling and award-winning novel Brooklyn, Colm Tóibiín returns with a stunning collection of new stories, written in prose as “elegant in its simplicity as it is complex in the emotions it evokes” ( The New York Times Magazine ).
Critics praised Brooklyn as a “beautifully rendered portrait of Brooklyn and provincial Ireland in the 1950s.” In The Empty Family, Tóibín has extended his imagination further, offering an incredible range of periods and characters — people linked by love, loneliness, desire — “the unvarying dilemmas of the human heart” ( The Observer, UK).
In the breathtaking long story “The Street,” Tóibín imagines a relationship between Pakistani workers in Barcelona — a taboo affair in a community ruled by obedience and silence. In “Two Women,” an eminent and taciturn Irish set designer takes a job in her homeland, and must confront emotions she has long repressed. “Silence” is a brilliant historical set piece about Lady Gregory, who tells the writer Henry James a confessional story at a dinner party.
Like Tóibíns collection Mothers and Sons, reviewed on the front page of The New York Times Book Review, The Empty Family will further cement Tóibíns status as “his generations most gifted writer of loves complicated, contradictory power” (Floyd Skloot, Los Angeles Times ).
From the internationally celebrated author of Brooklyn and The Master, and winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, comes a stunning new book of fiction. In the captivating stories that make up The Empty Family, Colm Tóibín delineates with a tender and unique sensibility the lives of unspoken or unconscious longing, of individuals often willingly cast adrift from their history. From the young Pakistani immigrant who seeks some kind of permanence in a strange town, to the Irish woman reluctantly returning to Dublin and discovering a city that refuses to acknowledge her long absence, each of Tóibín's stories manage to contain whole worlds: stories of fleeing the past and returning home, of family threads lost and ultimately regained. Like Tóibín's celebrated novels, and his previous short story collection, Mothers and Sons, reviewed on the front page of the New York Times Book Review, The Empty Family will further confirm Tóibín's status as "his generation's most gifted writer of love's complicated, contradictory power." (Los Angeles Times)
About the Author
Colm Tóibín is the author of four previous novels, The South, The Heather Blazing, The Story of the Night, and The Blackwater Lightship, which was shortlisted for the 1999 Booker Prize. He lives in Dublin.
Table of Contents
Silence — The empty family — Two women — One minus one — The pearl fishers — Barcelona, 1975 — The new Spain — The colour of shadows — The street.
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