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Mothers And Sons (2007)

Mothers and Sons (2007)

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3.74 of 5 Votes: 1
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1416534652 (ISBN13: 9781416534655)

About book Mothers And Sons (2007)

Mothers and Sons, a collection of short stories by the Irish writer Colm Tóibín, revolves around the theme, unsurprisingly, of the relationships between mothers and sons, each story focusing on a different family. There are three long stories, one about an art thief and his alcoholic mother, another about a financially struggling single mother and her attempts to restore the family business, and another about an alcoholic mother who gets lost in a snowstorm, as well as seven shorter ones. This collection is dark and intense, and relentless in its desolation, yet the intimate portraits of the characters and their relationships and Tóibín’s powerful writing make the reading rewarding and exciting. tOne of Tóibín’s greatest strengths in this collection is his ability to write clearly and definitively while revealing so much without saying it explicitly. This is a constant theme in the writing of the book, as well as the relationships between characters. Most of the characters live in the world of modern Ireland, where families are close-knit and the neighbors and town can see much. Yet the tension in these stories grows out of what is not said and what is not done by these characters, but rather what is felt, what is implied, what is seen. And Tóibín’s writing pulls the reader in on those sensations. In “The Use of Reason”, the art thief is worried that his mother is going to blow his cover with her drinking, and though they barely interact throughout the story, much of his thinking and his actions relate to her. Tóibín communicates his feelings through clear and concise writing, not wasting any words, but it feels rich even in its bleakness, full of unspoken thoughts and depth. Toibin writes, “He wished he could do this [digging] all night so that his mother’s voice could be erased from his memory. It was not the voice on the tape that seemed to seep through the great guard he had placed around himself. It was an earlier voice, more shrill and more insistent, a voice that he had managed most of his life never to allow into his conscious day” (p. 33). Through such writing, there is a distinct sense of a surface layer of thought and action, yet Tóibín seems to imbue his words with so much more than that surface layer, engendering subconscious thought, deeper relationships, and more. The writing here, matches the tone of the setting and this character, in its meditative, lonely, and matter-of-fact way. And although it does not vary widely throughout the book even as the stories shift, it seems to take on and propel the characteristics of many of the characters and settings in the other stories. tNot only does Tóibín create tension, psychological drama, and subtext with his use absence of communication and action, he also employs absence of character to a similar effect. This is especially true in “The Name of the Game”, “A Long Winter” and “One Minus One”, the last story in the book. This story is written in a different tone and from a different perspective than the other stories, and though it fits thematically and tonally within the collection, it has a clear separation. Whereas all of the other stories are written from third person, “One Minus One” is written in first person, as a sort of letter or inner monologue, to another unnamed character. This character is never named, nor identified, and their relationship to the main character is ambiguous and only comes across in a few lines. The overall relationship between these two characters is built through the way the narrator speaks to them, and what is left unsaid and the absence of this character from any physical presence in this story pushes the reader’s interest and engagement with the subtle elements of the story. We feel this absence strongly in the loneliness of the narrator; the attempt at connection with this unknown “you” increases the earnestness and tragedy of this narrator’s feelings. One of the strongest lines in this story that creates this intense solitary quality and the wonderful flow between past and present through the address of you comes as the very end. Tóibín writes, “I understood, just as you might tell me now – if you picked up the phone and found me on the other end of the line, silent at first and then saying that I needed to talk to you – you might tell me that I had over all the years postponed too much” (p. 288). Through this line we are made clearly aware of the main character’s absence of action and communication; though he has this whole address to “you”, it is revealed that this goes unsaid, that he does not make the call. Tóibín also, through his impeccable and discerning choice of words, creates a sense of the relationship of these two characters even without stating much beyond the way they would speak. And even as the narrator is telling a story of another absence from the past – the loss of his mother – we are getting a sense of the narrator’s current state of mind. tOne of the stories that stood out the most was “Three Friends”, perhaps because of a sense of the uncanny that existed within it and also its divergence from its focus on the family. This story begins with the funeral of Fergus’, the main character’s, mother and it very much has to do with his feelings about her and her death, but it takes a turn away from this theme directly with a story about a beach rave and homosexuality. The strange tone of this story seems to begin with the arrival of a stranger in the funeral home, who seems to have no bearing on the rest of the story. It is hard to tell what Tóibín was trying to do with this character, and he almost feels out-of-place, except that he creates a sense of disturbance in the story that sets a certain tone for the reader. Also, the way Tóibín writes about him is so beautifully constructed that he seems to be important, even fleetingly so. He writes, “Fergus glanced at him and saw in his dry skin and his pale face further evidence that these minutes did not belong to ordinary time, that the two of them had been dragged away by his mother’s spirit into a place of shadows” (p. 163). Not only does this give the reader a sense of Fergus’ thoughts and this stranger’s appearance, but it has a surreal quality that is projected through the rest of the story and turns the beach rave and sex into something more uncanny, spiritual, and emotionally charged. The writing in this book only fell flat in a few places, where the relentlessness of the tragedy, isolation, and broken relationships got to be too much. This occurred especially in one of the shorter stories, “A Song” in which the melodramatic nature of the apparent tragic quality was fueled by the lack of depth of the character and the readers connection to him, as well a sense of the implausibility of the situation. In this story, Noel sees his mother, who he has not seen for a long time, singing at a pub and spends the story contemplating their relationship and the possibility of reconnecting with her, which he ends up not doing. The flat style here does not come across as a specific tone, but rather just as a lack of depth. Tóibín writes, “As he stood alone near the bar, Noel calculated that, as he was twenty-eight, this meant he had not seen his mother for nineteen years. He had not even known she was in Ireland and, as he looked around carefully, he did not think that he would recognize her” (p. 43). There is an artificiality to this world, and the reader does not feel compelled to relate to Noel and his inner tension because it feels forced, calculated, and empty. Whereas in the other stories, the narrative provides a basis for the complex characters, powerful prose and engaging tone, here it supplants all that and the story becomes overdramatic. Perhaps this is what compelled Tóibín to keep the story so short; he was driven by an idea and wanted to see it played out, but only as a brief experiment.tOverall, this was a powerfully written collection that was cohesive and engaging throughout. Tóibín made remarkable use of language in his concise, full sentences and his austere, solitary tone. Tóibín has been compared to James Joyce, especially with this work and Dubliners, and it seems that Tóibín deserves this praise, not just as a quality Irish writer and a master of understatement and choice words, but with his overall powerful storytelling and use of language.

This Is Not The Second Sunday InMay Stories, 21 Jan 2007 4.5 stars "Sometimes they're more about the mothers, sometimes the sons, but most every story in Colm Tóibón's Irish-inflected collection is expertly woven with the threads of devotion, obligation, practical self-interest, and naked emotional need that can tether even the most distant of mothers and sons together. In his shorter tales, Tóibón can let those threads dangle awkwardly. It's only when he stretches out that Tóibón fully inhabits his characters in Story Collection, letting them breathe beyond the narrow roles prescribed by the title." Entertainment Weekly Com Toibin has written a novel that tells stories of mothers and sons, but often one or the other are not present. This is not your usual set of stories that you would discuss on that certain second Sunday in May with your mother. Oh, no, this is the reality. There is love and comfort and caring, but there is also the mess life makes. Each character in each story has his own story to tell. The stories start in Colm Toibin's Dublin and they work their way to the coast and beyond. We feel the land and see it in mind's eye. Not one story is my favorite, the collection of them all tells the complete story of mothers and sons. The chapter headings tell us a story in itself. Nine stories and some I will mention: 'The Use of Reason'- a man who is a thief has his secrets given away by his drinking mom. 'A Song'- a mother and son who do not know each other but connect in a fashion through a song. 'The Name of the Game'- a mother left penniless after her husband['s death but she refuses to give in and leaves a legacy for her son. 'Famous Blue Raincoat'- a mother who was part of a singing group but is reluctant to tell her son the story. 'A Long Winter' a mother who drinks but will stop only in her own good time and the family who loves her but who can;pt seem to connect. "The short story is a craftsman's form, and Toibin's craft is immaculate. Not many writers in Britain and Ireland are working at this level of intensity and seriousness, with not a slack sentence in 270 pages and nothing shoddy or easily sardonic throughout. The short story also seems an ideal form for a writer much more interested in emotion, and the slow exposing of a character, than in action or community." Pico Iyer I picked up this book and expected something reassuring and warm, but it is part of Colm Toibin's vision to show us that mothers and sons are often not what they seem, and often have missed connections. In some way these are stories of people who are not there. There is love and devotion and hard work and jobs and anger. There is not much mentioned of the fathers, but you know they are there. These are very moving stories and will stay with me. A mother of a son, and I will take the wisdom from Colm Toibin. Highly Recommended. prisrob 1/20/07

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I was impressed with every story in this collection. I greatly admire Toibin's insights into his very real characters and their relationships, his very subtle use of imagery, and the way he crafts his stories. Even a 'simple' turn of phrase of his engenders my respect. I love his writing and become more impressed (if that's possible!) every time I read something else by him.*Addendum:This quote about Toibin and this collection is what I was trying to say earlier but failed to: "His greatest strength is his restraint: this is a voice so unobtrusive that sometimes it feels as if there is no writing going on at all." (Reviewer: Archie Bland for Time Out London)

s. 32, JärkimiesHän katsoi lehdestä televisio-ohjelmat ja keitti itselleen teetä niin kuin olisi tavallinen maanantai ja voisi elellä kaikessa rauhassa. Hän pani tulikuumaan teehen tavallista vähemmän maitoa ja pakottautui juomaan sen, todisti sillä lailla itselleen että pystyisi tekemään mitä vain, kohtaamaan mitä vain.s. 173, Pappi suvussa"Kyllä minä pärjään niin kauan kuin on talvi", Molly sanoi. "Nukun pitkään aamulla ja touhua piisaa. Kesää minä pelkään. Minä en ole niitä ihmisiä, jotka kärsivät valon puutteesta. Kammoan pikiä kesäpäiviä kun herään aamun sarastuksessa ajattelemaan synkkiä ajatuksia. Synkkääkin synkempiä! Mutta siihen asti minulla ei ole mitään hätää."s. 179, Pappi suvussaKun hän astui sisään, tuntui kuin pieni talo olisi imetty tyhjiin jostain, ahdisti niin kuin sisäilma olisi suodatettu olemattomiin. Aurinko paistoi sisään olohuoneen ikkunasta ja hän meni sulkemaan verhot, jotta tuntuisi kuin muka olisi varhainen aamu. Hän ajatteli panna levyn soimaan, mutta mikään musiikki ei nyt miellyttäisi, ihan niin kuin alkoholi ei auttaisi eikä uni tulisi. Tuntui kuin voisi kävellä vaikka sata mailia jos vain olisi minne mennä, jos olisi selkeä päämäärä. Häntä ei pelottanut nyt mikään muu kuin se, ettei tämä tunne koskaan haihtuisi. Sydän sykki hirvittävän tyytymättömänä senhetkiseen elämään; korvissa soi vielä musiikin kaiku ja silmissä välkkyivät valojen heijastukset.s. 214, Kolme ystävää
—Alma Jylhä

Like the person who gave this book to me attests,Tóibín is a master of prose. The way that all of these stories seem to end--not with a "conclusion," per se, in the traditional sense, but rather with a sort of personal revelation or private moment of realization--remind me a bit of Joyce in Dubliners. Additionally, the gamut of feelings that are on display in MOTHERS AND SONS, from both the mothers and the sons themselves, are as tangible for Tóibín's as the pages that his words are written on.I highly recommend this book for anyone who's a fan of realistic fiction and of the short story.

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