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Mothers and Sons

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  1,104 ratings  ·  147 reviews
Each of the nine stories in this beautifully written, intensely intimate collection centers on a transformative moment that alters the delicate balance of power between mother and son, or changes the way they perceive one another. With exquisite grace and eloquence, Tóibín writes of men and women bound by convention, by unspoken emotions, by the stronghold of the past. Man ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published January 2nd 2007 by Scribner (first published January 1st 2006)
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26th out of 100 books — 43 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,270)
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Glenn Sumi
This is Colm Toibin’s first book of short stories, and you feel him striving for the same effects that he gets so effortlessly in novels like his recent Booker prize-nominated The Master.

Quaint title aside, these aren’t celebrations of Hallmark card family unity, complete with bucolic Irish settings. In at least half of the stories, the mothers and sons barely exchange a word. One pair haven’t spoken to each other in 19 years. The mood is as grey, overcast and shadowy as the weather.

Toibin’s big
Ce Ce
Tóibín's words are quietly powerful. They seeped slowly, almost stealthily, into my pores. Beautiful. Spare. A bit melancholic. And then suddenly the pain of his "silent" tale found its way like a finger of smoke to my very center and I gasped for breath. With each of these short stories there was a time or two (or three) that I closed the book and went about daily chores giving myself a bit of time and mundane life to sort through. Always I returned. Exquisite, simply exquisite.
Colm Toibin's prose is so innocuous as to leave one unprepared for the understated emotional devastation in this landscape of mothers and sons. The stories that really shine in this collection are the ones of men adrift in the aftermath of a mother's death (The Three Friends) or disappearance (The Long Winter). In this immediate twilight, these sons are at a loss how to react and how to feel, and here's where the authenticity really slices through in wonderful ways, in this empty numbing space, ...more
As relações entre mães e filhos (rapazes) podem estar enraizadas em amor, afeto, compreensão; mas também em equívocos e distância.
Neste livro de Colm Tróibín, cada um dos nove contos “breves mas fortes, contem vidas inteiras”.
I was impressed with every story in this collection. I greatly admire Toibin's insights into his very real characters and their relationships, his very subtle use of imagery, and the way he crafts his stories. Even a 'simple' turn of phrase of his engenders my respect. I love his writing and become more impressed (if that's possible!) every time I read something else by him.


This quote about Toibin and this collection is what I was trying to say earlier but failed to:

"His greatest stre
A wonderful collection of stories, some told from the mother's point of view with the son hardly appearing; others the reverse. Most of the relationships are in difficult places, and Toibin has an amazing ability to outline each situation impartially, to imply much and say little. In spite of the jacket blurb saying that "A Long Winter" is his finest work to date, I thought "A Priest in the Family" was preferable. In that one, as often with Toibin, what's not said is more important than what is. ...more
Mothers and Sons, a collection of short stories by the Irish writer Colm Tóibín, revolves around the theme, unsurprisingly, of the relationships between mothers and sons, each story focusing on a different family. There are three long stories, one about an art thief and his alcoholic mother, another about a financially struggling single mother and her attempts to restore the family business, and another about an alcoholic mother who gets lost in a snowstorm, as well as seven shorter ones. This c ...more
Justin Morgan
Toibin is one of those writers who I'm not crazy about but I keep returning to. This collection of short stories is very similar to his collection of novels in general in that I found a few emotionless (with purpose) and lacking energy, and several that were moving and have remained with me a month later. Technically, he's a great writer and I trust his intelligence, which causes me to examine more deeply those stories and novels that I don't find immediately satisfying. However, those stories t ...more
Like the person who gave this book to me attests,Tóibín is a master of prose. The way that all of these stories seem to end--not with a "conclusion," per se, in the traditional sense, but rather with a sort of personal revelation or private moment of realization--remind me a bit of Joyce in Dubliners. Additionally, the gamut of feelings that are on display in MOTHERS AND SONS, from both the mothers and the sons themselves, are as tangible for Tóibín's as the pages that his words are written on.

Overall, I found this a less satisfying read than the author's collection 'The Empty Family'. A bit of the problem hinges on the two longer stories that bookend the ones between: 'The Use of Reason' and 'The Long Winter' seem to be territory more foreign to the author than the other stories - it's almost as if, for the sake of experimentation, Toibin is dabbling in the interests of other authors (perhaps writers he admires). At any rate, he doesn't seem to be wearing his own clothes with those t ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 30, 2013 Jenny (Reading Envy) marked it as abandoned
Shelves: own
I ended up with two copies of these short stories in my attempt to wade through the first page of my to-read list, and this volume ended up abandoned in my book speed-dating project. I want to like Toibin, but this is the second book of his that I've started and struggled to connect with. For now, I'll be passing this along to someone else.
I liked some of the stories more than others, but loved Colm Toibin's voice throughout - and will definitely be reading more by him in the future. Especially loved the long final story, which is really a novella - I think his longer stories are usually even better than his short ones.
I didn't want Mothers and Sons to end. It's melancholy but again, that never bothers me. With subtlety, I think this book effectively explores human loneliness and solitude, while the last book I read, The Effect of Living Backwards, beat you over the head with these themes.
I can't legitimately rate this book because I put it down early on and then had the revelation that I don't think I've ever truly enjoyed anything by an Irish writer. Note to self: stop trying.
Beth Kiesel
I think Toibin has a way with words; and draws some intriguing characters at times. These short stories just stuck in my craw, for several reasons.

First, it drove me CRAZY that none of them actually had endings. I have a problem with that. I want to know what happened! I think these are less short stories than first chapters of books which were never actually written.

Second, come on is every man in the world gay? You'd think so, reading these stories. I found the overemphasis of homosexuality
Alma Jylhä

s. 32, Järkimies

Hän katsoi lehdestä televisio-ohjelmat ja keitti itselleen teetä niin kuin olisi tavallinen maanantai ja voisi elellä kaikessa rauhassa. Hän pani tulikuumaan teehen tavallista vähemmän maitoa ja pakottautui juomaan sen, todisti sillä lailla itselleen että pystyisi tekemään mitä vain, kohtaamaan mitä vain.
s. 173, Pappi suvussa

"Kyllä minä pärjään niin kauan kuin on talvi", Molly sanoi. "Nukun pitkään aamulla ja touhua piisaa. Kesää minä pelkään. Minä en ole niitä ihmisiä, jotka kär
Very bleak, the writing is good, but the book lacked a bit of genuine love and warmth.
I'm a great fan of Toibin's novels, but I don't find these stories match the level of his novels. The longest of the stories (A Long Winter) came closest to some of the qualities I love about his novesl -- a sustained atmosphere, the subtle exploration of complicated relationships, people in close connection with the land. A Priest in the Family on the other hand seemed most successful as a short story. Others seemed somewhat indulgent that highlight things Toibin clearly knows much about -- mus ...more
The first three stories dragged for me and seemed sort of without point. The fourth story affected me but I can't be certain if it was the writing or certain uncomfortable similarities to my own life that caused that. Then, suddenly, all the other stories were great. "A Long Winter" is the volume's longest and most impressive entry. You almost drift when reading his best work. I enjoyed his novel, The Master, very much and so was surprised by how little I connected to this book when I started it ...more
Pris robichaud

This Is Not The Second Sunday InMay Stories, 21 Jan 2007

4.5 stars
"Sometimes they're more about the mothers, sometimes the sons, but most every story in Colm Tóibón's Irish-inflected collection is expertly woven with the threads of devotion, obligation, practical self-interest, and naked emotional need that can tether even the most distant of mothers and sons together. In his shorter tales, Tóibón can let those threads dangle awkwardly. It's only when he stretches out that Tóibón fully inhabit
I thought this collection of stories was rather disappointing. With the exception of "The Name of the Game" --- which really was about a mother and a son --- the other stories seemed merely vignettes out of the lives of chance strangers. There was no development.

Even in "A Long Winter", the last and longest piece, I never got much of an idea why Miquel, the son of the peasant farmer, felt the way he did or was motivated as he was or was on the verge of breakdown as he was. The story had a littl
A collection of short stories, each having to do with relationship between a mother and a son:

• “The Use of Reason” – a meditative criminal must warn his mother about talking too much
• “A Song” – a Dublin pub musician runs into his estranged mother, a successful musician, in a pub, and hears her sing
• “The Name of the Game” – a widow in Dublin determines to fix her finances by running a chip shop, and her son adapts to the life instantly, to her dismay
• “Famous Blue Raincoat” – a woman who recor
Colm Tóibín: Master Storyteller

This review is from: Mothers and Sons: Stories (Hardcover)
One of our most intensely refined and challenging writers of the day, Colm Tóibín presents a new set of nine short stories correlated by the theme and title of mothers and sons, stories that mine the always fascinating relationship between mothers and sons, both positive and negative sides. This is writing of such apparent simplicity that the craftsmanship of his work is taken for granted - the mark of a tru
Short stories from the author of The Blackwater Lightship and the The Master, a novel and quasi-biography of Henry James. And all the stories are indeed about mothers and sons. A newly widowed mother in a stifling small town rescues her grocery store from bankruptcy with an aim of selling out and moving her children to a decent life in Dublin. But her oldest boy has found a life in the town and in running the shop. An elderly woman brings her only son home to visit her husband who is paralyzed b ...more
Irish writer Colm Tolbin, whose last two novels were shortlisted for the 1999 and 2004 Booker Prizes, brings a distinctively novelistic touch to Mothers and Sons, his first short story collection.

That is, many of the stories read like chapters excerpted from various novels, rather than feeling complete in themselves. The stories do not conclude, but simply end -- not abruptly, but way before the conflict ripened during the course of the story is resolved.

The point, it seems, is not what happen
I try to read 2-3 short story collections a year (after getting addicted to Raymond Carver stories in college). Mothers and Sons is the best collection of short stories I’ve read in the last four years. The title gives you the common thread that binds all of these stories together – the relationships between mothers and sons, good and bad. These relationships aren’t always the central plot of the stories, however, with some relationships only serving as relevant factors in what’s occurring. Toib ...more
Sarah Beaudoin
Colm Toibin has been one of my favorite authors since I read the first few pages of South several years ago. He has an ability to express such a degree of emotion through his words that it is impossible for me to not feel viscerally every word he writes. I was curious as to how this would carry over to Mothers and Sons, which is a collection of short stories and novellas.

The novellas were more successful for me than the short stories. I often wished the short stories contained more - more detail
I looked forward to this since reading Norah Webster, but the novellas did not hold me quite as much.

There is such a difference in the experience of reading vs. listening. Colum McCann reading his Transatlantic was such a beautiful expression of the English language; I've listened to it countless times which is not usual for me. When I read it however, it was very good but much less

Toibin is probably an author I will read in print.

t Possibly the hard copy would read differently. Good
It is so hard to give stars to sort stories. The stories in Mothers & Sons fluctuate between two and a half and five stars, so this gets four, with no apologies for the lopsided-ness of the average.
At his best, Tóibín's stories are very, very good. My favorites were "Famous Blue Raincoat," "A Priest in the Family," and the completely fantastic "A Long Winter," which may be my favorite short story ever. (I'll have to review some of the others I've read and loved, though. Great. More to read!)
Barbara Sibbald
Who knew that this marvelous novelist was such an adept short story writer? These are very find stories all on the theme of relationships between mothers and sons: fertile land indeed which he fully cultivates with flourishing results. "The Name of the Game," a particular favourite, touches so deftly on the tenuous hubris of youth. All are a joy to read.
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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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