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The South

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  448 ratings  ·  61 reviews
Set in the 1950s, this is the story of Katherine Proctor who "flees husband, child and County Wexford (Ireland) for Spain. She, a Catalan lover, and another Irish emigre, painters all, fashion new worlds in their work while fighting past worlds in their lives." (Library Journal)
Paperback, 240 pages
Published October 1st 1992 by Penguin Books (first published 1990)
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Sandra Lawson
I read my first Colm Toibin novel (Brooklyn) a few months ago and am a complete convert. The South was his first published fictional novel and he shows many of the concerns of his later work in this earlier one. There is a female protagonist, there are life changes, displacements and moves away from, and back to, home. Enniscorthy features again and helps Katherine Proctor reach conclusions about her life, as well as being a place where she renews relationships. Katherine travels, physically and ...more
It was interesting to see how themes in this novel, Toibin's first, are ones that were developed to much greater effect in his later works. (Henry James and the Blackwater lightship even get glancing mentions here.)

I wonder if I'd read this Toibin first, if I would've gone on to read more by him on my own. Maybe not. Or perhaps it's just that I've been spoiled by his later works that I feel this way now. Because while there are sections in this novel that grabbed me momentarily, I never felt pu
A thought experiment. 1) Take a Hemingway novel, one of the ones where ex-pats hang out and do crazy stuff in Europe. 2) Make the protagonist a woman. 3) Make the person whose sense of identity is largely lost because of a war not the protagonist but the protagonist's lover (although the protagonist here certainly had a significant brush with violence in childhood). That, approximately, is "The South."
“The South” is Colm Tóibín’s first novel, published in 1990 when he was 35. It traces Katherine Procter from her flight from Ireland in 1950 to her eventual reconciliation with her own demons in 1972. In the years in between, she finds love with a Catalan anarchist in the remote reaches of the Spanish Pyrenees. The novel’s themes—exile, solitude, apartness, loss and death—are the very ones that will occupy Tóibín starting with this novel and including his most recent work, “The Empty Family”.

Colm Toibin is actually coming to speak at the library where I work in a few weeks so I am trying to make it through some of his works before the event. I read The Master years ago, but am trying to read some of his other works as well. The South takes places during the 1950s and 1960s in Ireland and Spain. The story follows a woman named Katherine who leaves her husband and 10 year old son and moves to Barcelona where she meets a fellow artist named Miguel who she quickly develops a lasting rel ...more
This sounded like an interesting quasi-companion piece to the Heather Blazing, which I loved, but no. I failed to connect with this one in any way, shape or form, and frankly skimmed most of it. I was about to drop it when I reached the first chapter set in Ireland, which peaked my interest. The Ireland chapters were really the only interesting parts. The main character had in her favor that she was the same generation as my grandmother. That she was a land rich protestant wasn't an issue. Her b ...more
Ross McMeekin
I found much to appreciate about Colm Toibin's debut novel The South--the first book of his I've read. The book explored themes of abandonment both of family and of country, but didn't do so with a heavy hand. The authorial presence of Mr. Toibin was light, and most of the larger movements and parallels were implied in such a way that I didn't notice them until after putting the book down. I think another way of saying this is that Toibin's stayed so tight and true to Katherine Porter's perspect ...more
Eveline Chao
Story of a solitude-loving female painter who lives in Spain but eventually returns home to Ireland, about which she has mixed feelings. (Side note, she's from a wealthy Protestant family; Toibin is Catholic.) Follows her from mid-thirties to middle/oldish age, and examines her relationships to art, to religion, to husbands, lovers, and would-be lovers around her, to her mother and children, and to her country. Very clear, simple writing - there are long stretches that feel a lot like Hemingway, ...more
A very strong first novel that displays much of what I love in Toibin's work over the past twenty years. His writing is poetic, atmospheric at times, never overstating or explaining. We are largely left to make our own sense of his enigmatic lead character (a woman, as is true in much of his writing, including the most recent masterpiece, Norah Webster). The elements of place and nature are given great attention in this book, more than in some of his other works, and there are many turns of phra ...more
Catherine Siemann
Lovely, minimalist writing, and in the end, quite moving. The South is the story of Katherine Proctor, who flees her husband and her Irish home for Spain, where she becomes a painter and the lover of an anti-Franco artist named Miguel. Spanning several decades of Katherine's life, the novel traces both small moments and large-scale political happenings, and shows their impact on human lives.
Well written story about love and regret.

Katherine Procter is married to Tom and has a little boy Richard. They live on her family's farm in Ireland. They are Protestants. One day in 1950 she leaves everything behind including Tom and Richard. Eventually she travels to Barcelona, Spain. She meets Miguel and moves in with him. He fought with the Republicans against Franco in the Spanish Civil war and is occasionally questioned by the authorities. She also meets another Irish expat, Michael Graves
Sep 16, 2014 Nicole rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: s14
I'm not quite sure what to make of this. Terrible things happen, but in a calm and understated prose that reminds me of Alice Munro in some weird way. Though of course it's not like that at all: there are letters and diary entries mixed in, changes of persecptive and voice. Yet somehow I kept wanting the book to be more like her.

I also felt a strange mixture of frustration and empathy for the main character. I do not understand some of her choices: staying with Miguel during certain periods, ac
This book took turns that left me a little bit lost. It was more depressing than I was ready for, didn't hook me at all. I know it wasn't attempting to be a "grabber" but I just didn't enjoy reading it. The descriptions though were fantastic and really put you in the scene.
Understated and kind of melancholy. A woman leaves her husband and child to live in Spain, then falls in love again and studies painting, and returns to Ireland in her old age. I didn't really like or dislike it.
It has an appeal to the theme of changing one's life. However, I couldn't relate with the decisions made by the two main characters. Ultimately, it made me think.
Beautifully atmospheric, but I just couldn't get involved, whether due to unsympathetic characters or non-suspenseful plot or whatever.
Sue Lyle
I loved this book. THe prose is beautiful, he paints on the page and brings landscape and sense of place to life. Central character, Katherine leaves her husband and 10 year old son in Ireland and escapes to Barcelona. The book is so moving but quiet and still and somehow unfinished like many of the paintings of the protagonists. Immensely sad and uplifting at the same time, like a really powerful painting. The author clearly loves the landscapes of Catalonia and Ireland and creates the enormity ...more
This was definitely okay enough for me to try Brooklyn.
I enjoyed this novel quite a bit, while I didn't love it, I did find myself reading it all in pretty much one sitting. While I did have a few problems with it, overall it was a nice read.

I did find there were a lot more slow parts, more than I would have liked. There were a few times, I wanted the story to push forward and felt few interactions between characters were becoming redundant. But overall, I think for the author did a great job at taking the readers on a journey with the characters.
Aug 30, 2008 Nick rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nick by: Eileen
Shelves: fiction
For far too long, lovers of the visual arts have been able to claim superiority over literature lovers with the phrase "A picture paints a thousand words". This book is sweet revenge. Apart from the fact that painting a picture takes a hell of a lot longer than writing a thousand words, it seems we do not actually need a thousand words to describe a picture. In 'The South' Toibin presents us with the essences of a range of paintings in a cariety of artistic styles with an economy of expression t ...more
Colm Tóibín has recently been in the news for his new book, The Master which tells the story of Henry James, and is supposedly very good. I haven’t read it, so I don’t know :) But the publicity did encourage me to pick this book up when I spotted it in the library

His first novel, it tells the story of Katherine Procter who leaves her life in Ireland for Spain, leaving behind her husband and son as well as Enniscorthy. In Spain she finds romance, and a new life as an artist, but is constantly hau
Toibin’s first novel, published in 1990, is a story of an Irish artist in self-exile in 1950s Spain, told in crisp, stoical prose that nonetheless achieves a stark, insightful beauty. Katherine Proctor leaves her husband and son to go to Barcelona where she takes up with a Catalan painter and a former resistance figther against Franco. Toibin, an Irish writer, knows Spain well enough not to overburden his story with postcard descriptions or name dropped landmarks and is skilled enough to make hi ...more
Nicole Craigmiles
Colm Toibin's "The South" is about Katherine Proctor, a woman who is coming into her own in the 1950's. She abandons her husband and child after she learns the type of man she married and thinks her son is just a miniature version of him. She leaves Ireland and heads to Barcelona to begin her new life. She came from a wealthy Protestant family and her mother supported her while she led an artistic life in the Pyrenees with her Spanish revolutionary lover.

Throughout the story Katherine isolates h
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I found this a thoughtful, beautiful and moving book. I really liked the flatness of the language and plainness of the vocabulary - unlike so much we read nowadays it was understated, underwritten, the story and the 'truth' moving in and out of view like distant figures in a mist strewn landscape. Mainly set in Spain but with Ireland always looming like a presence, a central character, the book explores how we navigate the present with the shadows of the past, of history, politics, violence, lov ...more
Anthea Ramos
I don't know what this book was about apart from the obvious - and the obvious story was boring. I think the author was trying to be very literary and subtle, but I found the dialogue very superficial and tedious and I found the relationships odd and unrealistic. Not worth readin in my opinion.
Frances Sawaya
No matter the characters, the setting, the times, Toibin seems always to convey isolation and loneliness. Strong writer. Themes evident in this first novel recur in The Empty Family (a more recent work). The Pearl Fisher has knocked my socks off. More anon when I complete TEF.
It was an interesting read, though I'm still trying to develop an opinion of it. The South was completely different from the books I typically read, but I still found it interesting. It is definitely not for very young readers, that's for sure.
Her Royal Orangeness
“The South” tells the story of Katherine Proctor who flees an unhappy marriage and the political turmoil of 1950s Ireland. She relocates to Barcelona, Spain where she once again finds herself in an unfulfilling relationship and affected by the political unrest of a country.

I never felt captivated by the story, and I felt no interest in or empathy for the protagonist. The chronology is messy, and Tóibín writes in a very sparse manner that nearly defies all the rules of grammar. There are glimpse
I didn't like this as much as Brooklyn, so if you are interested in reading some of TOibin's work, I wouldn't recommend starting with this one. The South follows a young woman who abandons her family in Ireland and takes up with a man in Barcelona. We watch as she essentially gets herself tangled up in a very similarly dissatisfying life as the one that she left. Only at the very end of the book (as she is much older) does she finally seem to find herself and feel some contentment.

I must confes
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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
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“There will always be reservations, things one must leave out, events one can’t explain without handing over a full map of one’s life, unfolding it, making clear that all the lines and contours stand for long days and nights when things were bad or good, or when things were too small to be described at all: when things just were. This is a life.” 1 likes
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