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Another Colm Tóibín review

So, I recently finished Colm Tóibín's collection Mothers and Sons, which I mentioned in my last post. I don't think I'll review every story, but I will write up my favorite piece in the book.

A Long Winter: At 70 pages, this is more of a novella than a short story, but the length allows Tóibín's gifts to shine. This story, set in a small Spanish village, follows Miguel through a difficult winter: his younger brother leaves home for compulsory military service, he discovers that his mother has a drinking problem, and, shortly thereafter, his mother leaves home and is lost in the mountains during a sudden snowstorm. Tóibín sets up a lovely feeling of domestic tranquility to begin his story (he's wonderful with his descriptions of the family home and farm that mean so much to Miguel--I was particularly impressed with the way he evoked the sounds of a familiar and beloved place), and then lets that tranquility unravel. The weather is fierce, the tone is brooding, and the story is full of an awareness of forces outside of human control. Eventually Tóibín shifts the focus to the hesitant beginnings of a romantic relationship between Miguel and Manolo, a cook who joins the household to replace the missing mother. Both story lines resist easy endings, turning away from resolution whenever it appears. This makes it hard to find satisfaction in the story, but (in my opinion, at least) makes the story significantly more interesting.

Not all of the pieces in the book are as successful as this one, but it's a strong collection. Recommended!



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 28th, 2011 05:36 am (UTC)
You have absolutely got me intrigued to read Toibin's work, especially this story. I'm going to have to seek out this collection on my next bookstore trip, even if I don't read the whole thing right away. I'm always interested in stories that resist the easy ending in favor of leaving the reader perhaps a touch uncomfortable.
Jan. 28th, 2011 10:27 pm (UTC)
Well, I hope you like it! There's always nervous moment when someone takes you up on a recommendation: "What if they hate it and think I have terrible taste?" Or maybe that's just me, and the rest of the world is less neurotic.

Nevertheless, enjoy Toibin!
Feb. 1st, 2011 04:35 am (UTC)
After dinner and coffee with friends tonight, I decided to cruise into the Borders nearby on my way back to my hotel. Saw a hardcover Tiobin collection and picked it up on impulse -- it's his newest short story collection, though, and not MOTHERS AND SONS. Whooops! haha. I will read it soon, I'm sure.
Feb. 1st, 2011 08:39 pm (UTC)
That may not be a bad mistake to have made--his new collection has been getting great reviews! I'll be interested to hear what you think of it.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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