The Heather Blazing

Colm Toibin, Author
Colm Toibin, Author Viking Books $20 (256p) ISBN 978-0-670-84789-1
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-14-017532-5
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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.)
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