A Guest at the Feast: Book summary and reviews of A Guest at the Feast by Colm Toibin

A Guest at the Feast

Essays

by Colm Toibin

A Guest at the Feast by Colm Toibin X
A Guest at the Feast by Colm Toibin
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  • Published Jan 2023
    336 pages
    Genre: Essays

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Book Summary

From one of the most engaging and brilliant writers of our time comes a collection of essays about growing up in Ireland during radical change; about cancer, priests, popes, homosexuality, and literature.

"IT ALL STARTED WITH MY BALLS." So begins Colm Tóibín's fabulously compelling essay, laced with humor, about his diagnosis and treatment for cancer. Tóibín survives, but he has entered, as he says, "the age of one ball." The second essay in this seductive collection is a memoir about growing up in the 1950s and '60s in the small town of Enniscorthy in County Wexford, the setting for many of Tóibín's novels and stories, including Brooklyn, The Blackwater Lightship and Nora Webster. Tóibín describes his education by priests, several of whom were condemned years later for abuse. He writes about Irish history and literature, and about the long, tragic journey toward legal and social acceptance of homosexuality.

In Part Two, Tóibín profiles three complex and vexing popes—John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis. And in Part Three, he writes about a trio of authors who reckon with religion in their fiction. The final essay, "Alone in Venice," is a gorgeous account of Toibin's journey, at the height of the pandemic, to the beloved city where he has set some of his most dazzling scenes. The streets, canals, churches and museums were empty. He had them to himself, an experience both haunting and exhilarating.

A Guest at the Feast is both an intimate encounter with a supremely creative artist and a glorious celebration of writing.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Erudite essays from one of the world's finest writers… A celebrated novelist offers personal essays on religion, literature, his Irish upbringing, and his cancer scare [in this] magnificent volume…Throughout, the poetry of Tóibín's prose is as impressive as always. In [the] title piece, he writes that his mother was 'what most of us still write for: the ordinary reader, curious and intelligent and demanding, ready to be moved and changed.' Readers like her will savor every page of this book." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Novelist Tóibín gathers 11 essays that showcase his versatility in this erudite collection of previously published material...Tóibín's fans will relish these sharp reflections." - Publishers Weekly

"This volume opens with his poignant journey through cancer treatment and a looming sense of mortality… A hallmark of Toíbín is his uncanny ability to deftly express the emotional undercurrent in his writing, be it loneliness, anger, or nostalgia." - Booklist

"Toibin's voice is so powerful and distinct, his descriptions so precise, that a single thread does weave through each of these pieces and does not snap… virtuoso… the pieces in A Guest at the Feast are a tantalizing glimpse into his full fictional powers. Time to crack open Brooklyn again." - The Sunday Times (UK)

This information about A Guest at the Feast was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Colm Toibin Author Biography

Photo: Bruce Weber

Colm Tóibín is the author of ten novels, including The Magician, his most recent novel; The Master, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Brooklyn, winner of the Costa Book Award; The Testament of Mary; and Nora Webster, as well as two story collections and several books of criticism. He is the Irene and Sidney B. Silverman Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University. Three times shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Tóibín lives in Dublin and New York.

Link to Colm Toibin's Website

Name Pronunciation
Colm Toibin: CULL-um Toe-BEAN

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