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The Blackwater Lightship (2005)

The Blackwater Lightship (2005)

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3.84 of 5 Votes: 4
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0743203313 (ISBN13: 9780743203319)

About book The Blackwater Lightship (2005)

There are three contemporary authors writing in English whom I find extraordinarily engaging: Cormac McCarthy, Tim Winton and Colm Tóibín . They are all stylistically brilliant and all three weave worlds that address significant issues regarding the human condition. All, also, have received significant recognition for the quality of their production. Among that recognition, McCarthy by Pulitzer; Winton and Tóibín , by Man Booker.Cormac McCarthy’s writing is probably the more unconventional. He is less attentive to traditional grammar, punctuation and style. And the worlds he created are categorically darker, disheartening. Even in the comparatively brighter Border Trilogy (brighter than, say, “The Orchard Keeper”, “No Country for Old Men” or “Blood Meridian”), John Grady Cole and Billy Parham in the final volume are clearly marching into the postapocalyptic future of “The Road”. Hope and redemption dissipate in the ravaged earth.Hope—or at least thoughtful resignation and conditional re redemption—survive in Tim Winton and in Colm Tóibín’s worlds. The futures their people face are not suffocatingly black. It would be difficult to imagine one of McCarthy’s people writing about his life in retrospect as did Bruce Pike in “Breath”: “And though I’ve lived to be an old man with my own share of happiness for all the mess I made….”Tim Winton, compared to McCarthy is a more academic writer—at least in terms of the mechanics of writing. But like McCarthy, his prose is ultimately lyrical. It is clear and expressive—beautifully poetic that never misses a beat. So is Tóibín’s writing poetic. Tóibín’s writing, however, is also more elliptical than that of the other two writers. It moves quietly—stealthfully—page to page, focusing on what appears to be the mundane, on minutiae. In “The Blackwater Lightship”, Tóibín describes, at the beginning of the novel, Helen’s preparations for a party. The preparations seem to be limited to the delivery and the final pick up of chair and tables. But that economy of description ultimately explodes in the reader more than the words would seem to do. Tóibín , with his words, is a bit like Picasso with his brushes during his cubist period. He throws them out on the page, seemingly disordered and unrelated but re-structured to have them recomposed in the reader’s mind, infused with sudden insights and complex visions.The physical environment also plays a different role with each of the three. For Winton, the physical environment is integral to his plots. With the exception of “The Riders”, his novels unfold in Western Australia—in the narrow stretch of land sandwiched between the western sea and the eastern desert. It is a within that littoral that the bulk of Western Australians live. But that said, the waters of the ocean and of the rivers that empty into it are a living presence in Winton’s writings. In “Breath”, the ocean and its waters dominate. But they play a role in his other works as well, linked often to the very souls of his characters.In contrast to Winton, the physical environment for McCarthy and Tóibín are more simply stages on which their stories unfold. McCarthy’s plots play out in specific regions in the United States—in the Appalachians and, starting with Blood Meridian, the American Southwest and Northern Mexico. Tóibín is more varied, with stories set in Argentina, the United States and Europe. But Toíbín and McCarthy’s characters are not entwined inexorably to their environments as are Winton’s. For Tóibín and McCarthy, place helps define the themes but it does not control them.With their differences, the three writers are similar in regard to their voices. For example, Tóibín’s “Blackwater Lightship”, “Brooklyn” and “The Story of the Night” are more about emotion, thought and communication than about action. But the same is also true of McCarthy and Winton’s novels. All three tell engaging and compelling stories. But those stories engage and compel because they embroil the reader in the very themes of life. They all translate into works the same questions Paul Gauguin asked in paint: Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?

The Blackwater Lightship is a difficult novel to describe in a few words. On the surface it tells the story of Helen, her estranged mother Lily, her grandmother, and her brother Declan whose revelation of his lifetime struggle with AIDS forces the family back under one roof for the first time in a decade. Underneath the harrowing and, at times, graphic descriptions of Declan's losing battle with the disease, there is an entire other story centered on communication, and particularly the breakdown in communication that has occurred over three generations of women in this family. It is a novel where the strong masculine character is missing- Helen's father died of cancer when she was young, her grandfather died some time thereafter, and her husband is out of town with her sons for the duration of the story. The three males who are involved in the story are gay and the two friends take on the mothering role for the sick and child-like Declan. Despite much of the criticism of the novel which views it as an AIDS narrative, I would argue that Declan's story, far from being central, is in fact almost incidental to the main plot: the confrontation between the three women, and particularly Helen and her mother. Declan is, more than anything, a plot device to bring the women together. Toibin's prose is sparse and devoid of extraneous flourishes. The influence of Hemingway is clear in his pared down style. This makes it an easy story read, but also one that does not waste words on amusements for the reader. In this way there is a correspondence between the style and thematic content of the story. The theme of communication is reiterated constantly in a variety of ways, from Helen's chilly reserve to the frequent repetition of communication verbs, and even down to the almost secretive way in which the narrator reveals information in the story: there is much that is never fully communicated to the reader. I enjoyed The Blackwater Lightship particularly for its adherence to the central conflict and for the effective use of symbolism that Toibin employs. However, it is not for the faint of heart or the easily bored. Descriptions of Declan's symptoms are not glossed over, nor does Toibin make up for the haunting emptiness of his prose with snappy witticisms. Read it for the poignant story of family troubles and for a glance into one of the first AIDS narratives in Ireland, not for the entertainment value.

Do You like book The Blackwater Lightship (2005)?

The Blackwater Lightship is a story that any reader can relate to. This is my first book by Colm Toibin and I definitely plan on checking out more by him. I've come out of this book not only feeling impressed, but as though I know the characters.Toibin creates a solid plot which feels realistic and well-constructed. Themes of family and friendship play a major role in this novel when Declan, the brother of the main character Helen, becomes sick with AIDS and the struggle brings together three generations. I definitely think family illness is a subject which all readers can relate to. However, Toibin doesn't depict the perfect family, which is one of the things I loved while I was reading this. Very families I know never fight or have histories free of rough patches. That made the characters feel so much more human to me.Speaking of characters, Toibin does an excellent job of constructing them throughout the novel. For the most part, they are all very well-developed. I loved how many of the characters told stories about the past so that the reader learned more about them, but plenty of the book was still set in the present. I would have liked to know a bit more about Hugh, but I definitely still picked up on the strength of his and Helen's marriage.Toibin's writing is not necessarily the most ornate or flowery, yet it is still very emotional. He is very honest about what all of his characters are feeling physically and emotionally. However, he definitely still manages to get some humor in the book. I feel that a lot of family get togethers involve sharing humorous moments or anecdotes, which is partially why I liked it. This is definitely a book I recommend. I'm so glad I had the opportunity to read this, and I think a lot of other readers will relate to the theme of family in this book.

The Blackwater Lightship came highly recommended to me. I'm not sure why. It is the story of three generations of angry women. They are cold and hard on the outside. On the inside they are seething. If you go even deeper, they are loving mothers.In contrast, the Irish men are loving, playful, nurturing, able to take command, but not bossy. They are also loyal and just plain nice.Helen, one of the main characters, lives in Dublin, which like any city is bustling. It's inhabitants are cosmopolitan and a aware of the AIDS crisis. In contrast, Cush, the little town where Dora, the grandmother lives, Lily, the mother, was born in and lived in for 17 years, and Helen, the daughter lived in for 9 months, is provincial. Dora's house is near the eroding shore and a distance from the nosy neighbors. Not only is "gay" a foreign word, but it's definitely something to be hidden.Dora took Helen and her brother, Declan in, while Lily's husband, the children's father was in hospital and died. Notice , I didn't say cared for. She fed them, but did not nourish them. Now that Declan is in his final stages of AIDS,he wants to make it right by bringing the family together. This is not a new idea, but because it isn't original it doesn't mean that it's bad. I just feel that the drama, here, is predictable and overly wrought.The three women are feisty, stubborn, and judgmental. They are capable and financially independent. Yet they can't say, "What's wrong?" or "I'm sorry."I had sad dreams for two nights. Obviously it is effective; I just didn't like it.

I love Toiobin's writing, and have read both Blackwater Lightship and The Master once for the story and again for the language. Saw this in Time: (interviewer) Why do lapsed Catholics seem to make good writers? (Toibin) The Word somehow remains - the beauty of the Word. Honestly, from the age of 7, at boys'benediction, they would lower the lights of the cathedral and say, "Death comes soon and judgement will follow, so now, dear children, examine your conscience and find out your sins." And you feel a tremendous weight of centuries coming at you as you bow your head. The whole business of beauty within Catholicism lingers, no matter what you do with it."

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