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The Story of the Night

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  2,098 ratings  ·  184 reviews
From the award-winning author of Brooklyn and The Master, a powerful, brave, and moving novel set in Argentina.

In Argentina, in the time of the Generals, the streets are empty at night, and people have trained themselves not to see. Richard Garay lives with his mother, hiding his sexuality from her and from society. Stifled by his job, Richard is willing to take chances,
Paperback, 336 pages
Published May 3rd 2005 by Scribner (first published 1996)
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 ·  2,098 ratings  ·  184 reviews

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Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
“I wanted them to know that I was all right now, after years of not being all right…”

This is the third of Colm Tóibín's novels that I have read. I have already purchased another and added it to my “to read” pile. I can’t really articulate why he is so good, except to say that his brilliant use of small detail and the everyday bits and pieces of life just builds and builds until you are caught up in a reality that completely envelopes you. It captures you because the emotions are so real, honest,
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It was interesting that this story was set in South America as opposed to Ireland which I know is where most of Tóibín's novels are set. Even though I didn't have any knowledge on the historical events that occurred throughout the time of the story, I didn't in any way feel like I was losing track of the story. Tóibín keeps you up to date!

One of the things I appreciate most about this book is the characterization. It is not easy to write intelligent and introverted characters such as Richard,
Barry Pierce
Not in a million years would I have put this novel in Colm Tóibín's bibliography. It isn't set in Ireland, there isn't a woman running way from something, and it's received little-to-no awards. However, and I may be premature in this decision, I think this might be Tóibín's masterpiece.

Split into three parts, we follow Richard's journey from Argentina during the Falklands War, through the entire decade, up to the AIDS crisis of New York in the late 80s. It goes from Giovanni's Room to Angels in
Raul Bimenyimana
Nov 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer
In a way this book felt like it began in the second half. The first half is mostly the narrator recounting his childhood and describing Argentina's political and economic state in the 80s, which was somewhat dull.

What was most interesting about this book, is how well Tóibín writes of queer sexual "code of conduct" in societies that are repressive towards queer individuals (certainly not exclusive to these places). A language in which gestures and silences are more important and informing than
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
Jun 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Colm Tóibín didn't live in Argentina in the 1970s and 80s. But after reading The Story of the Night you might wonder if he did, given how utterly believable the novel is.

The narrator, Richard Garay, is half English, half Argentinian. Caught between two cultures, he feels a definite sense of displacement - a feeling that's only heightened by his closeted sexuality. After his father's death, he leads a claustrophobic existence with his overbearing mother...until he falls hopelessly in love with a
Jul 11, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
Colm Toibin is much-loved and I must say that I admire the breadth of vision, Ireland to Brooklyn to Argentina to Scientology to an alternate to the Gospels. "The Story of the Night" reads, to me, like a sequence of four themes featuring the same narrator, a gay Argentine of the seventies and eighties. The first segment is a youth reminiscent of Borges, not in writing but in the household reverence for English despite living in Latin America; the narrator's mother was British. Family business ...more
Jul 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
I will read (and I *will* read) anything written by Colm Toibin. The writing is unpretentious and largely unadorned, but beautiful nonetheless.
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
Aug 31, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
Styleless writing and lack of emotional engagement finally became too much to bear. It was like reading about a damp cardboard box given human form.
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Never in my life have I felt so attacked by a book like when I read "The Story of the Night". This book hit home way too close.

You know how books - as many other things - come into your life in certain moments and in certain situations that just make you believe there's something out there that actually watches over you? Well, me runing into this novel by Colm Tóibín was an experience like the one I just mentioned.

One wouldn't need to know, but I started reading this as a way to get off my
Apr 09, 2018 rated it liked it
"I still believe that they [American Diplomats] were involved in every cent which the United States
put into...the [Argentine] election," thinks Richard, the narrator of the story set in 1996. But they pay him big bucks to take some risk, and he is pretty much aimless and drifting. But Richard has taken another risk: he is gay and has had unprotected sex for years. Will the Argentine government bring him down? Will Aids? Will both? Or will he get away with everything? Good stuff, good enough for
Jan 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Mar 21, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-2010
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 ...more
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
See my reflections on "Brooklyn" and "The Blackwater Lightship" for comments about "The Story of the Night".
Argentina. The time of the Generals the disappeared, the Falklands, a shaky democracy and privatisation. The main character is born of English stock but lives a sheltered life until he meets two USA diplomats. Until then his only secret was being gay and his biggest fault was a lack of ambition.
The US and IMF do their thing to get their way, the characters are not that likeable and the second half of the book went into the life of gay men in the time of AIDS with no cure.
Toibin writes like he
Sivananthi T
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating love story of love, loss, disease. Well-written, you can't put it down.
Derek Bridge
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Not my favourite of Toibin's novels, but beautifully-written and wholly engrossing nevertheless. It seems a novel of two halves: mostly about double-lives, about what we hide and what we show, about what people see and what people choose not to see. The backdrop is Argentina through the time of the Generals to the time of a flawed democracy. But, in the second half, the backdrop fades, seemingly central characters disappear from view, new characters appear, and the theme becomes the devastation ...more
K.M. Soehnlein
Oct 09, 2011 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michael Flick
Mar 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
This doesn’t quite work for me, doesn’t seem to know where it’s going and when it gets there finds that it packed the wrong bags.

“[O]ne side of me, the English side maybe, was a way of hiding from the other side, which was Argentinian, so that I never had to be a single fully formed person, I could always switch and improvise.” [189] The narrator, Richard Garay, puts his finger on his problem and the problem with this novel: neither can quite assemble into being fully formed and coherent.

Bishan Samaddar
Jun 13, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: homoerotic, gay, fiction
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

Carolyn Mck
Jan 01, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Aug 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-edition, gay
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
Apr 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fiction - Argentina, LGBT. eBook. Discovered by internet browsing.

How has this book passed by me for so long? This book was beautiful and devastating, creating a haunting world for a single character to inhabit fully, letting me become that character for a few days. This was my first Tóibín and not my last by any means.

This is the story of Richard, his name mentioned only once from what I can recall, the son of a British mother and Argentinian father, straddling both worlds, then coming out in
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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 ...more