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Summary and book reviews of The Empty Family by Colm Toibin

The Empty Family

Stories

by Colm Toibin

The Empty Family
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2011, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2012, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
BJ Nathan Hegedus

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About this Book

Book Summary

From the internationally celebrated author of Brooklyn and The Master, and winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, comes a stunning new book of fiction.

In the captivating stories that make up The Empty Family, Colm Tóibín delineates with a tender and unique sensibility, lives of unspoken or unconscious longing, of individuals often willingly cast adrift from their history. From the young Pakistani immigrant who seeks some kind of permanence in a strange town, to the Irish woman reluctantly returning to Dublin and discovering a city that refuses to acknowledge her long absence, each of Tóibín's stories manage to contain whole worlds: stories of fleeing the past and returning home, of family threads lost and ultimately regained.

Like Tóibín's celebrated novels, and his previous short story collection, Mothers and Sons, reviewed on the front page of the New York Times Book Review, The Empty Family will further confirm Tóibín's status as "his generation's most gifted writer of love's complicated, contradictory power." (Los Angeles Times)

Chapter 1
Silence

34 DVG, January 23d, 1894

Another incident - "subject" - related to me by Lady G. was that of the eminent London clergyman who on the Dover-to-Calais steamer, starting on his wedding tour, picked up on the deck a letter addressed to his wife, while she was below, and finding it to be from an old lover, and very ardent (an engagement - a rupture, a relation, in short), of which he never had been told, took the line of sending her, from Paris, straight back to her parents - without having touched her - on the ground that he had been deceived. He ended, subsequently, by taking her back into his house to live, but never lived with her as his wife. There is a drama in the various things, for her, to which that situation - that night in Paris - might have led. Her immediate surrender to some one else, etc. etc. etc.
- from The Notebooks of Henry James

Sometimes when the evening had almost ended, Lady Gregory would catch someone's eye for a moment and that would be ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The Empty Family is a haunting collection of nine short stories that speaks to the connections we make with both people and places. It explores the idea that recognizing and acknowledging the profound influence both these aspects have on us leads us to be content with who we are. The high bar of expectation set by Tóibín's previous books is met if not surpassed by this work. Once again we are given the gift of wonderful writing, not only because of the journeys we are taken on but the way in which we travel.   (Reviewed by BJ Nathan Hegedus).

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Media Reviews

Library Journal

Starred Review. In this triumphant follow-up to his award-winning novel Brooklyn, Tóibín exhibits his familiar stylistic simplicity while extending his emotional reach and range in surprising ways.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. These stories go a long way toward establishing Tóibín as heir to William Trevor, with reverberations that show how life encompasses more than the living.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. [The Empty Family] reconfirms his mastery of the short story. ...Tóibín raised his profile with the exquisitely bittersweet Brooklyn, and this collection is every bit as rich... Likely to rank with the best story collections of the year.

The Guardian (UK)

Colm Tóibín is a fine lyricist of yearning, exile and regret.

The Times (U.K.)

The work of a supreme writer who only improves.

The Telegraph (UK)

Each character is caught in, or reflecting upon, a crossroad moment in their lives, a defining relationship, and combined with Toíbín's language – spare and poetic, with minimal, acerbic dialogue – it gives these stories a meditative quietude and a stealthy, understated power. Poised and complete, this is Toíbín in perfect control of his art.

The Independent (UK)

A collection that will only further fuel Toibin's ascent through English fiction.

Author Blurb Edmund White, author of City Boy
This is some of Tóibín's most beautiful and heart-stopping writing. The story "The Street" is one of the great love stories of our time, gay or straight.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Henry James

Young Henry JamesHenry James (1843-1916), the prolific American writer of the late 19th/early 20th century, was known to pick up ideas for his stories from dinner party conversations. Colm Tóibín puts this bit of knowledge to use in his short story "Silence", when he has fictional character Lady Gregory share a secret with James as they sit next to each other at a dining table. A source of great influence and inspiration for Tóibín over the years, Tóibín paid homage to James in his well-received novel, The Master, a biographical work of fiction which begins in 1895 when James's hopes of becoming a prominent playwright were dashed by the success of Oscar Wilde.

Born in New York City, Henry James spent forty years living ...

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