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Mothers and Sons

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  1,431 Ratings  ·  184 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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Mothers And Sons is Colm Tóibín's first collection of short stories, and my introduction to his work. I've been meaning to read him for a long time, though somehow never got around to reading any of his more famous novels - Brooklyn, Nora Webster or The Master. However, as an aficionado of short stories and human relationships, I could not have let this book pass me by.

Most of the stories in Mothers And Sons are set in Tóibín's native Ireland - only the last story, A Long Winter, is set in Spain
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
Oct 22, 2014 Ce Ce rated it it was amazing
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.
Nov 09, 2007 Elaine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jim Fonseca
Sep 08, 2013 Jim Fonseca rated it it was amazing
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
Ana Lúcia
Aug 26, 2014 Ana Lúcia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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”.
Roger Brunyate
May 22, 2016 Roger Brunyate rated it really liked it
Shelves: stories, ireland
Lives Led in Ellipses

So what are these stories about? Despite the title, mostly not about mothers and sons, or only peripherally so. As I have felt before with Tóibín, I sense an elusiveness there, as though the real author were hiding somewhere in the shadows. Beautiful shadows, don't get me wrong; the man has a great gift for atmosphere, character, and feeling. But these stories, ranging in length from eight pages to over seventy, seemed to be reaching beyond their ostensible subject, towards
Jan 13, 2008 Teresa rated it it was amazing
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
This collection contains Tóibín's beautiful writing but the structure of most the stories was lacking, I thought. They read more like parts of novels than short stories. The exception to that was the last story, "One Plus One" which was beautifully realized.
Jul 30, 2015 Kai rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
The writing was deep and beautiful. The stories compelling. I just wished I understood them. I think I did on the surface, but there was always this tickle in the back of my mind reminding me that I really had no idea what I was reading.
Jun 07, 2016 Margarida rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Uma colecção de histórias de grande sensibilidade e beleza que dão forma aos dramas da mais elementar das relações, a relação entre mãe e filho" (na contracapa).
Destas nove histórias, destaco 'The Famous Blue Raincoat' e a extraordinária, e que encerra este conjunto, 'Um Longo Inverno'.
Mar 22, 2012 Elijah rated it really liked it
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
Pris robichaud
Jan 04, 2009 Pris robichaud rated it it was amazing

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
Justin Morgan
Nov 16, 2012 Justin Morgan rated it liked it
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
May 14, 2014 Jon rated it really liked it
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
Jan 09, 2017 Jarkko rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jo lainatessani kirjan kirjastosta tiesin, että tämä on oleva erinomainen lukuelämys, sillä Colm Toíbínista on tullut nopeasti yksi niistä kirjailijoista, joiden jälkeen aina luotan. Yllätyksenä tuli kuitenkin se, että kyseessä oli romaanin sijaan novellikokoelma. En novelleista yleensä juuri perusta, mutta tämä kokoelma vei minut mukanaan. Yhdeksän novellia, joista jokainen kertoo tarinan joko äidin tai pojan näkökulmasta, ja jokainen novelli rakentuu jonkin heidän suhteessaan perustavanlaatuis ...more
Sep 27, 2014 Caragh rated it really liked it
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.

Daniel Kukwa
Jan 07, 2017 Daniel Kukwa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-lit
Eight of the nine stories in this collection are everything I've come to expect from Colm Toibin's writing: a gentle, straightforward style that generates powerful emotions, and asks questions of the reader that have no easy answers. Had it been those eight stories, this would be an easy five-star rating. However, the final story, set in post-civil war Spain, seems so totally out of left-field, in comparison with the rest of the collection, that it actually made me flinch. A very puzzling end to ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jan 04, 2009 Jenny (Reading Envy) marked it as did-not-finish
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.
Dec 31, 2007 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 11, 2008 Alyssa rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
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.
Very bleak, the writing is good, but the book lacked a bit of genuine love and warmth.
Nov 30, 2015 Jennifer rated it liked it
On the whole I'm not a fan of short stories and sadly even Toibin hasn't made me change my mind. Some of these were brilliant; others I didn't enjoy at all. Beautiful writing throughout though.
Jun 25, 2015 Raluca rated it really liked it
Nu la fel de fascinanta precum "The testament of Mary", totusi o carte buna.
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.
Oct 24, 2016 Anne-Louise rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
audio version
Mar 12, 2009 Gerund rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 13, 2010 Grady rated it it was amazing
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
May 16, 2012 Ensiform rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, stories
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
Aug 24, 2012 Lawrence rated it it was ok
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
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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 Award) and ‘Homage to Barcelona’, both published in 1990. When he retur ...more
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“The rest of the time he entertained all the guilt that wished to call, carried in by the wind through the darkness, to enter his spirit...” 0 likes
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