Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Blackwater Lightship

Happy St. Patrick's Day! To honor St. Patrick, I will blog about talented Irish authors all this week.

The Blackwater Lightship, by Colm Toibin (with accents on the 'o' and second 'i' of Toibin, so that it is pronounced Tow-been), was published in 1999.
This is a deceptive novel. It is very simply and beautifully written, but the topics are complex and also really sad. A young man, who will soon die of AIDS, wants to spend time at his grandmother's house by the sea. In recent years, his friends had more or less replaced his immediate family. Now, at his grandmother's house, he is nursed by some of those close friends, plus his mother, sister and grandmother. Old family memories and tensions naturally surface, and Toibin skilfully draws us into the intricacies and difficulties of relationships within this family.

Page 106
She did not know how her grandmother would respond to their arrival. She realised that for the first time in years - ten years, maybe - she was back as a member of this family she had so determinedly tried to leave. For the first time in years they would all be under the same roof, as though nothing had happened. She realised, too, that the unspoken emotions between them in the car, and the sense that they were once more a unit, seemed utterly natural now that there was a crisis, a catalyst. She was back home, where she had hoped she would never be again, and she felt, despite herself, almost relieved.

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