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The Story of the Night

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  1,166 ratings  ·  104 reviews
A New York Times Notable Book

The streets are empty at night, and people see nothing because they have trained themselves not to. It is Argentina in a time of the generals. Richard Garay lives alone with his mother, hiding his sexuality from her and from the world. Stifled by a job he despises, he is willing to take chances, both sexual and professional. The Falklands War e
Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 15th 1998 by Holt Paperbacks (first published January 1st 1996)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,341)
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Jennifer (aka EM)
This was really three books in one:

1) Richard Garay lives with and cares for his domineering mother until her death, and then attempts to make his own way as a gay man in macho, politically volatile Argentina in the mid-80s.
2) Richard gets involved with a family, the patriarch of which seeks to become President of Argentina, and takes a job as a translator thanks largely to the influence of two American CIA agents who are working behind the scenes to "democratize" Argentina in the post-Falklands
3 and 1/2 stars

Engrossing, compelling story (with some interesting set-pieces) that, more than once, seems to be going one way and then takes you another. I don't think, as a whole, it's as good as Toibin's later works, but it's just as readable.

I enjoy reading all the works of favorite writers and seeing their development. I found this one better than his earlier The South, and it's also interesting to see how this one probably led to his next one, The Blackwater Lightship, which I loved.
Colm Toibin is one of my favorite Irish authors writing today. Among his books that I've read to date ("The South", "The Heather Blazing", "The Blackwater Lightship", "Mothers and Sons" and this one - I haven't read "The Master" yet), "The Story of the Night" is my favorite.

Set in Buenos Aires during the Falklands war and its aftermath, the novel tracks the development of Richard Garay, a gay schoolteacher, the son of an Argentine father and English mother. At the novel's opening, the generals a
rating: 5.5/5

My initial reaction: "Brilliant, emotional, and will leave you, well, utterly speechless. Just... WOW!"

As Argentina is going through political upheaval, so is Richard. Strangled by his job and lack of love life, he takes risks and grows just like this new Argentina does. He finds himself in a new career and in a new love.

The melancholy, trance-like prose beautifully illustrates how Richard drifts through life being a part of it yet apart at the same time. He is lonely and detached
A Timelessly Important Yet Also A Timely Novel

2005 and Argentina has just revoked amnesty for those responsible for the brutality and occult treachery of the Dirty War that ended with the overthrow of the military junta with the British defeat of Argentina's forces over the Falkland Islands. And it is during this closure of a long suppressed circle that Colm Toibin's superb 1995 book THE STORY OF THE NIGHT comes back into circulation. By all means read this book now not only to celebrate Toibin'
WTF?!?!?!?! I thought this would be like gay Joan Didion, twisting together a sordid coming out tale and the shadowy political intrigue of Argentina's desaparecidos-era dictatorship. Granted, it IS that for the first 20pp., but unless you're Henry Kissinger you wont understand a thing that's going on because it's totally oblique and confusing. (Only good thing about this novel is it was so iffy on the political part it forced me to go down a Google hole learning about Operation Condor; what a sh ...more
Bishan Samaddar
I may not have Mr Naipaul's astonishing ability to judge the gender of writer from the first two paragraphs of a book (nor do I aspire toward such an ability) but I believe I possess a certain capacity to judge the merit of a book after reading a couple of pages.

The Story of the Night struck me immediately as a difficult book—not because it is difficult to grasp but because it's tedious to go through. It is not the tedium of self-conscious style. It is the tedium of the self-conscious lack of s

K.M. Soehnlein
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Toibin's third novel was his first openly 'gay' novel and I wonder how much he felt compelled to tackle the subject of AIDS. It was published in 1996 so maybe there was a sense of obligation on his part. Reading it in 2006, I couldn't help sighing a little with a sense of deja vu when the topic reared its head at the end of the book - which is, admittedly, an unfair reaction.

The novel blends confession, love story and the sort of ambassadorial intrigue that Graham Greene went in for. In fact, I
Although you may not guess it throughout the first third, this book is at heart a deeply moving love story. In parallel movement to a political scene that is coming alive as youth become aware and take an interest - in part because the economic crisis is forcing them to - the death of the main character's mother forces him out into the world and on the beginning of a journey to find himself. He becomes more involved and interested in politics as he becomes more self assured and as society begins ...more
Gili Austin
Riviting reading the like of which I have not come across in a long time. Toibin's style in this novel is so racy, it places you in a trance, links you profoundly to Richard Garay's character and emotions and finally crushes you into sudden oblivion, as Richard is wiped out by the wicked senselessness of the plague, HIV Aids. However, the nobility of this character is such, that not only does he emerge from the closeted and suffocating personal existence of the lone homesexual but he also abando ...more
David Silva
This is the first time I have read a Tóibín novel and I am very glad that I did. Is this book political? Yes. Historical? Absolutely. Romantic? Extremely. To be frank, I had not been this impressed with a piece of Contemporary Fiction since I read Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. The Story of the Night well paced, beautifully written, and had me staying up into the wee hours to finish it. Looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of The Master, which is the author's supposedly mo ...more
Catherine Siemann
The subject matter of the book is intense and important -- being gay in a repressive society, Argentinian politics and corruption, emotional isolation, AIDS -- and yet it had less impact than I expected. The narrator is oddly emotionally distanced, which makes sense in the context of his childhood (a British mother who holds herself at a distance from the Buenos Aires society she's spent most of her life in; the constant sense of his sexual difference), but even when he falls genuinely in love, ...more
Rachel Wallis
I do love Colm Toibin. He's one of my favourite authors but this early novel is not one of my favourites. It follows a lost gay Argentinian/English teacher who lives with his mother until her death, when he is forced to go out in the world and participate in it. He lucks into a better job, friends and money and eventually love, all of which make a good storyline but I found his style in this book a bit undeveloped. He goes into full detail of some conversations and not others and it just seems q ...more
John Treat
Well, every one of Tóibín's books is worth the effort, but this one requires patience as well. It's several stories each struggling to be a novel: a man and his mother, Argentina and its Dirty War, a Graham Greene tale of Americans abroad and up to no good. Finally, it's a story about AIDS, and that makes the project clear: in a world where everyone is in some kind of hiding, dying finally outs us all. It's early Tóibín, and you can feel him flexing his young literary muscles-- fans will of cour ...more
Beautiful and moving gay story set in Buenos Aires around the time of the Falklands war, its politico-economic aftermath, and the ascent to power of Menem. Tóibín seems to me a very calm, patient and precise writer as he tells the life story of Richard Garay, the building up of different stages in his life and his coming to terms with his sexuality. The subject of AIDS at the beginning of the crisis brings back to the time when it all was so unclear, unknown, terrifying, indefinable. Definitely ...more
Carolyn Mck
As a fan of Toibin's work, I was pleased to find this early work on a friend's bookshelves. The narrative follows the mid-life of Richard Garay in Argentina, before and after the Falklands war. Richard teaches English but rejects his English mother's commitment to Thatcherism. Initially uninterested in politics and deliberately unaware of the crimes being committed by the generals on their own people, he becomes involved in reform politics through the family of a pupil (Jorges) and their travels ...more
A searing look at Argentina after the dictators,the years of the "missing" and the Falklands, from the viewpoint of a gay man who discovers his truer self and genuine love, but at a tremendous cost.The writing is deceptively matter of fact and low key but brick by brick reveals the house of Argentina at that time to be founded on mistrust,loneliness, and deception, with "rooms" full of hypocrites,manipulators,schemers,exploiters,the disenchanted, repressed sensualists,and the seem
Pascal Durrenberger
The egocentricity so characteristic of the gay world was well portrayed with the over use of the "I". It was a bit much at times for me but I did continue reading. The story was colourful with its descriptions and had the effect of transporting you into another part of the world. That I liked about this book. A bit less action and more introspection finally came with the precipice of AIDS. It is a shame that it is only when we get there that we realise how much our focus should have been broader ...more
Disappointing, especially since I've liked Toibin's work elsewhere. It's rambling, aimless, and emotionally distant - any one of the several novels it's trying to be (political intrigue, coming-of-age romance, reflection on the AIDS crisis) could have been a very good novel on its own, but not so much all smashed together. Especially the AIDS thread, which comes out of almost nowhere so late in the book that talking about it at all feels like it requires a spoiler warning.

The reader follows Rich
Rambling and depressing, I'm not sure what the point was.

...or else I know what the point was, and I'm not sure I like that point.
This was an odd book. I kept waiting for something to happen that dealt with espionage because there was so much here about Argentinian politics, but then the story seemed to abruptly change and the last third of the book was a love story that dealt with AIDS. I wasn't really sure what the I was supposed to make of the first two-thirds of the book. What was the deal with the American couple? Were they spies for the US government or some US corporate interest? Was Richard being followed by the Ar ...more
James Barker
This book started strongly- the protagonist's relationship with his mother was explored with sensitivity and depth and I found it intriguing. But Toibin passes over this quickly, intending to produce something epic, a novel covering the whole of the Argentinian 1980s, nodding a hat at the age of dictators and the disappearances, the Falklands War, the selling-off of the oil fields, and- because this is a GAY novel- AIDS, of course. Because-sigh- writing a gay novel without AIDS would be the same ...more
Steve Woods
This is a beautifully written book.Toibin has a great command of the language. It just seems to glide along just as time might, and it appears little is happening but it all is; seemingly just below the surface, the weaving of the tale is so subtle. Set in post Falklands Argentina, the intensity of the political climate is conveyed through a sense of strong emotion just held in check. The atmosphere is thick with the sense of impending change, that at times feels like doom. That bleeds into the ...more
After reading Toibin's The Master, a book I absolutely loved for its beautiful poetic language and deep but subtle understanding of Henry James, I was looking forward to reading his earlier novel which deals more directly with gay themes.

Well, I am very disappointed. Two of the three parts of Story of the Night deal with the political and business climate in Argentina in the 70s and 80s. Supremely boring and written like a journalist. This reminded me a bit of Hollinghurst's Line of Beauty, but
This is a very well-written book by one of the best authors currently alive. It was very sad, however, particularly at the start, when the main character's aloneness in the world is so vividly depicted. Not sad in a cheap, tear-jerking way, but sad in a way that feels very real. Toibin has an almost occult ability to put the reader there in the story, so much so that you hardly notice you are reading: it's more like you are just having a very vivid dream. "The Master" made me feel like I knew wh ...more
I simply loved this book. A political history of a country and a health crisis is accessibly and beautifully examined. This is relatively early publication in in the context of Toibin's career to date. From page one however the sensitivity and intimacy which I have enjoyed in subsequent books was strong. The ability to ever so gently make the reader feel the raw human nature of each character is also an ongoing trait in other books dealing more obviously with relationships. Using the liberalisat ...more
This was the first book by Colm Toibin that I read. I did not realize he was an Irish author since the story was so convincingly set in Argentina. In fact it was his sixth book and I was as sorry that I had not discovered him sooner as I was glad to have finally found this very good writer who would go on to win the Booker Prize. The Story of the Night, presents a narrator, Richard Garay, who lives in silence about his homosexuality and in denial about the actions of his country, Argentina, with ...more
Anne Bryson
Colm Toibin writes beautifully, almost lyrically. In this novel he takes us into the head of the protagonist with a poignant honesty which I believe would be difficult to express in anything other than a novel. It is the writing that makes this an easy read for me, however the subject matter and the narrative I found more difficult. In the end I'm glad I read it. Like all good books, this one has broadened my understanding of humanity.
Oh so sad. Unexpectedly sad, somehow -- the blurb on the back says "set during the Malvinas War" (or, y'know, Falklands War I suppose) and I failed to chronologically connect that war, the dictatorship/disappearances, and the AIDS epidemic.

The big horrible beautiful pivotal things tend to be sort of overly dramatic and maudlin, looking back...good history but not good fiction necessarily. Toibin has this talent to write about said things while maintaining an edge that makes it real, makes it so
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(From the authors website - )
"Colm Toibin was born in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford in 1955. He studied at University College Dublin and lived in Barcelona between 1975 and 1978. Out of his experience in Barcelona be produced two books, the novel ‘The South’ (shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award and winner of the Irish Times/ Aer Lingus First Fiction
More about Colm Tóibín...
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