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Mothers and Sons [Hardcover]

Colm Toibin
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
RRP: £12.99
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Book Description

1 Sep 2006
A collection of exquisite stories from Booker-shortlisted Colm Tóibín

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; First Edition edition (1 Sep 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330441825
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330441827
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 822,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Colm Tóibín was born in Ireland in 1955. He is the author of six novels including The Blackwater Lightship, The Master both of which were shortlisted for the Booker Prize and Brooklyn which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Costa Novel Award, and an earlier collection of stories, Mothers and Sons.

Product Description


'Bleak and beautiful tales of motherhood, motherland and
-- Books of the Year, Sunday Telegraph

'Clarity and beautifully nuanced precision create his artistic
distance… sureness of touch' -- Spectator

'It may not be going too far to suggest Irish Fiction has found
its first Master of the new century’ -- Scotland on Sunday

'Tóibín is a writer of extraordinary emotional clarity...these are
beautiful stories, beautifully crafted' -- Kate Saunders, Literary Review

`All [the stories] share a miraculous density. Short but weighty,
they contain whole lives' -- Lucy Hughes-Hallett, Sunday Times

`Compelling... Tóibín is a master of the blind allies of desire...
Tóibín commands admiration and respect' -- The Times

`Moving... beautifully captured moments of longing and loss...
[Tóibín] is a subtle, intelligent and deeply felt writer' -- Guardian

`No one writes about loss like Tóibín' -- Time Out

‘Tóibín achieves his effects in scrupulously understated prose,
conveying psychological complexity in straightforward, very subtly rhythmic
language' -- Sunday Telegraph

‘Tóibín’s prose, as dry and detached as ever...packs a powerful
emotional charge’ -- Daily Mail

Book Description

Colm Tóibín’s new and challenging collection of stories paint rich and textured portraits of individuals at different pivotal moments in their lives. In each case, Tóibín shows how their relationship with either a mother or a son, or their relationship to their own role as mother or son, reveals something unique and important about them. The stories feature Ireland or Irish narrators, but they are also truly universal. In ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ unwelcome memories are stirred when a mother, once a singer in an Irish folk-rock band of some popular renown in the 60s, finds that her son has been listening to their old records - songs she hoped never to hear again. In ‘Water’, a son buries his mother and goes out to a drug-fuelled rave on a remote beach outside Dublin. In the course of this one night his grief and desire for raw feeling combine with exquisite and devastating intensity. At once beautifully playful, psychologically intricate, emotionally incisive, finely-wrought and fearless these stories tease out the delicate and difficult strands which are woven between mothers and sons. Sometimes shocking and always powerful, this masterful new collection confirms Tóibín as great prose stylist of our time. Praise for The Master: ‘An audacious, profound, and wonderfully intelligent book’ Hermione Lee, Guardian ‘The Master is not short of a masterpiece’ Independent on Sunday

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Memorable stories 17 Nov 2007
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The thread that ties the beautifully written nine stories in this book together is that in each one there is a complex relationship between a mother and a son. I don't think that all of them `focus' on this relationship, as the blurb on the back has it, for only in four of the nine stories is it central. Rather, each one seems to me to focus on either the mother or the son; but whichever it is, we are let deeply into that person's thoughts and see the world through that person's eyes, and mostly it is a sad or even tragic world. A death figures in several of the stories. Some are most evocatively set in various very Irish communities: a criminal one in the first story, an Irish pub in the second, a small village where everyone knows everyone else in others. The long last story is set in the mountains of Spain. All are memorable in their deceptively simple style and in their psychological content.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Your mind is like a haunted house 30 Aug 2010
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This is a collection of stories from Toibin which is varied in range and setting, though a weight does adhere, a certain flatness of tone, to some of the prose. The first in the collection The Use of Reason concerns a man who has stolen paintings from a museum, one of which is a painting by Rembrandt of a very old woman. The man (never named) learns through a policeman who has become an ally, though not a trusted one, that another cop is a drinking partner of his mother, and his mother talks intemperately, especially in drink. This makes him ultra cautious about getting rid of the paintings, though he seems to have a solution through a couple of Dutchmen, who have arrived to view the Rembrandt. The maddening caution he has to use to feel secure eventually eats away at his reasoning abilities and he eventually decides that it would be safest to burn the painting. There is a dark, twisted sort of humour in this story which gives it a richly compelling feel.

Mothers and their sons are deftly created, and the strength of this writing is in its delicate piecing together of relationships, a sure, taut, measured storytelling style and the gift of empathy entirely unmarked by sentiment. It's not flashy and there are few moments of relief from the fatalism of family conflict, but for all that, there is a stately kind of beauty within these pages.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
In Mothers and Sons, Irish writer Colm Toibin continues his trademark gift for presenting nuance and intimacy in this collection of nine haunting and exquisitely written short stories. Melancholy and thought-provoking, and filled with the complexities of life, Toibin introduces us to sons and mothers who are constantly grappling to understand each other and where an emotional canvas of familiaral expectation is as rich and as unexpected as life itself.

In the first story, "The Use of Reason," alcoholism lurks just below the surface as an art thief living in Dublin realizes that he may not be able to rely on the discretion of his mother as he once first thought. Having just stolen a valuable Rembrandt, he's anxious to unload the work to a pair of Dutch criminals, but unfortunately, his mother just doesn't know when to keep her mouth shut boasting in the local pub her beloved son's escapades.

In "The Name of the Game" we see a mother forced to provide for her son when after the death of her husband she inherits his supermarket, along with all of his debts. All of a sudden, faced with certain poverty, she learns to be tough and competitive and on the advice of her suppliers, she takes a risk and enlarges the store into a chip and burger shop, perhaps relying more on her own tenacity, than on the family's dwindling resources. In the process of remaking the business, she discovers that her son has a good head for numbers and comes to her aid, helping out with the accounting and preparing the way for her retirement.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Formid 1 Oct 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
IReally liked this book. Because It felt very real. And human
Made me very nostalgic. Brought back memories of my childhood
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4.0 out of 5 stars A likely heir to McGahern and Trevor? 17 Aug 2013
It must be especially daunting for an Irish novelist to embark on a collection of short stories and to know that amongst your countrymen are two of the 20th century's greatest exponents of the form, John McGahern and William Trevor.

Colm Tóibín, much praised for his novels and having had his last two shortlisted for the Booker Prize, has chosen to bring together three longer stories and six brief ones in this collection. The underpinning theme running through the collection is obvious from the title.

Of the two shortest stories, "A Song" describes the thoughts of a musician, abandoned by his mother, who sees her in a bar and, as she enthralls the audience with her folk singing, he imagines how he can accompany her: "He, in turn, had worked out in his head a way of singing above her. He imagined fiercely how it could be done, how her voice would evade such accompaniment, and perhaps deliberately wrong-foot it, but he believed if he was ready to more a fraction more up or down as she did that it could be managed". "A Summer Job" describes the tensions between a mother, her son and her own mother. The grandmother gradually develops a strong bond with the boy that turns excludes her daughter, "She realized, as they went downstairs, that both John and her mother wanted her to leave, both were careful not to respond to anything she said. They were almost hostile, as though she had left a gate open in the field". The mother tries to understand how and why her son has become so emotionally isolated from her.

In the opening story, "The Use of Reason", which begins with the opening sentence, "The city was a great emptiness.
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