38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars
character study rather than plot driven Irish novel, 30 Nov. 2000
It was the evocative title of The Heather Blazing that drew me towards it, having read and not particularly liked Toibin's earlier novel, The South. The story can be summarized in a few words...it is just selected elements from the past and present of the protagonist's life, mainly focusing on time spent on holidays in rural Ireland, away from his high profile Dublin life as a judge. The important characters in Eamon's life are introduced- his wife, daughter, son, father, uncles and aunts- and his relationship with these people is left, to a certain extent, up to the reader to decide. His love of the sea and enjoyment of nature is at odds with his relationships with the other main characters-his wife, daughter, son, father and uncles and aunts. The struggle of these people to understand him is seen by the reader and the wish that he would share more surfaces many times during the book. I recommended this book to a book club and read it with several different nationalities. The "Irishness" of the book is apparent but this seems to be taken in a good way and also has universal appeal. Much has been written elsewhere about Toibin's sparse style and I felt that in this book in particular, the reader is left filled with a longing for more, in the best possible way. Some scenes, described perhaps in one paragraph stay in my mind as though pages were devoted to developing them. In a book where character is driving the story rather than plot, one moves towards the conclusion not sure what to expect. It is fitting that, like life, the ending is uncertain, leaving the reader once more to take the information and make his/her own decision.