The Blackwater Lightship: Book summary and reviews of The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Toibin

The Blackwater Lightship

By Colm Toibin

The Blackwater Lightship
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2000,
    272 pages.

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Book Summary

In Blackwater in the early 1990s, three women - Dora Devereux, her daughter Lily and her granddaughter Helen - have come together after years of strife and reached an uneasy truce. Helen's adored brother Declan is dying. Two friends join him and the women in a crumbling old house by the sea, where the six of them, from different generations and with different beliefs, must listen and come to terms with one another.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"This is the most astonishing piece of writing, lyrical in its emotion and spare in its construction ...Toibin has crafted an unmissable read" - Sunday Herald

"Toibin is a sparing, unsentimental writer; he has an innate sense of the formal feeling that follows great pain. His portrait of three generations struggling to accept (and care for) one another is deftly offset by the medical and social formalities of dying from AIDS, and the novel's achievement lies in its depiction of the everyday enterprise of loss." - The New Yorker

"Without ever being heavy-handed, Toibin shows how death can shed light on the morals of individuals as well as entire families. He also illustrates the paralysis that strikes people who have an overwhelming need for approval and love: They are stopped in their tracks in the same way that they might be frozen in the sweeping ray of a lighthouse beam." - Time Out New York, John Freeman

"Readers have come to expect as much from Toibin, but The Blackwater Lightship goes beyond his earlier work in its depth and compassion. The novel delivers a graceful and moving meditation on loss, obligation, and the nature of family. In an era of ever-more-rapid change, Toibin's radiant novel reminds us that some things are more constant: love and frailty, and our human need for one another." - Lambda Book Report, Elizabeth Flynn

"Toibin writes like a stylistic heir of Hemingway, in spare and brutally insistent prose, and inhabits a domain of silence and inarticulate hurt with utter conviction. His book is a microscopically drawn map of the way families inflict pain on themselves. There's not a cheap revelation or a fake insight to be found in its pages; Toibin's absolute lack of sentimentality and his refusal of easy consolation are the marks of a superb technician with a brave soul. The Blackwater Lightship is a great and humanizing novel." - Men's Journal, Mark Levine

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Author Information

Colm Toibin Author Biography

Photo: Bruce Weber

Colm Tóibín was born in 1955 in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland, the second youngest of five children. He graduated from University College Dublin in 1975 and promptly moved to Barcelona for three years. His experiences in Spain informed his first novel The South (1990). Tóibín returned to Ireland to pursue a masters but never matriculated. He left academia for a career in journalism and was editor of the prominent Irish news magazine Macgill from 1982 to 1985. He has taught literature and creative writing at Princeton and Stanford Universities, among others, and currently lives in Dublin.

Along with writing a number of critically-acclaimed novels, Tóibín has also worked as a critic and editor of a variety of anthologies, like The ...

... Full Biography
Author Interview
Link to Colm Toibin's Website

Name Pronunciation
Colm Toibin: CULL-um Toe-BEAN

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