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The Heather Blazing

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  1,931 ratings  ·  218 reviews
The sea is slowly eating into the land and the hill with the old watchtower has completely disappeared. The nearest house has crumbled and fallen into the sea. It is Ireland in the late twentieth century. Eamon Redmond is a judge in the Irish High Court. Obsessed all his life by the letter and spirit of the law, he is just beginning to discover how painfully unconnected he ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published September 6th 2002 by Picador (first published 1992)
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Average rating 3.82  · 
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 ·  1,931 ratings  ·  218 reviews


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Jim Fonseca
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irish-authors
Let me start by asking, what is it about Irish authors and their beach houses? Often decaying, often illuminated on and off by a nearby lighthouse, they are almost characters in the novels. That’s the case with this story by Toibin as well as his Blackwater Lightship. Beach houses figure prominently in Trevor’s Silence in the Garden and in Lucy Gault. Then there’s Banville’s The Sea. And I happen to be reading The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch – another Irish author and another beach house. It al ...more
Paul
Aug 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irish-novels
At Boolavogue as the sun was setting
O'er the bright May meadows of Shelmalier,
A rebel hand set the heather blazing
and brought the neighbours from far and near.

Toibin’s writing is beautiful and lyrical and the title comes from the first verse of a song as recorded above. It recalls the Irish rebellion of 1798 which was brutally put down by the British (as usual).
The novel tells the story of Eamon Redmond an Irish High Court judge, alternating between past and present telling the story of his
...more
Laysee
Oct 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Heather Blazing is a superlatively quiet novel set in the Wexford Coast, Ireland, about the resonance of childhood memories and losses that continue to reverberate through adult life.

The key character is Éamon Redmond, a revered judge who retreats each summer at the end of the law term to a cliff-side house in Cush with his wife (Carmel). Cush is where Éamon and his single-parent dad spent their summer every year when Éamon was a boy. There is a soothing calm that comes from just reading Tó
...more
Shovelmonkey1
Jul 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who like a little maudlin
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
The Heather Blazing takes it's title from a line in a traditional Irish folk song. But within the book there is very little blazing and if anything the fires are dying out. This is a book stuffed with metaphors. Filled up like a pinata, one sharp tap and it would burst and you'd be left with metaphor all over your face.

Set predominantly in the seaside village of Cush, Co. Limerick, which is slowly being eroded away into the sea. Every wave and every storm see another piece of land washed into t
...more
H.A. Leuschel
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was one of those quietly powerful books where the main protagonist floats through life as if he was forever caught in a glass bowl looking out yet unable to be truly part of other people’s deepest feelings and thoughts. He often hints on the fact that he’d like to engage, understand and be a part of his family’s emotional bond yet falters at every step of the way ... until it is almost too late. Melancholic and oppressively sad at times but well worth a read nevertheless.
Barry Pierce
In his first novel set entirely in Enniscorthy, Colm Tóibín tells the tale of a high court judge, Eamon, living in late 20th century Ireland. I feel that this would be his hardest novel to get into if the reader isn't Irish or unless you have strangely intimate knowledge of 20th century Irish politics. With cameos from Lemass, de Valera, and Haughey, you can already tell that this novel is steeped in politics that many would find either dry or highly testing. However it is more than just a polit ...more
Barbara
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In a slow, quiet way Toibin tells us the story of Eamon Redmond. He expertly weaves together Eamon's childhood with his life as a judge, husband, father, and grandfather. It is the story of how our history shapes us and influences who we become. Our imperfections, relationships, aspirations are all related to our past. Eamon is a flawed man, but a man of many good qualities, too.

The book is equally about the beauty of the Irish seascape; its permanence and its impermanence. The cottage at Cush o
...more
Philip
Aug 20, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Heather Blazing by Colm Toibin is a deeply emotional, deeply moving book. It’s the story of Eamon Redmond, a complex man, grown on tender roots, influential friends, a keen intellect and a tangible distance between himself and those whom he loves.

The book is set in three parts, each of which dips in and out of time. We are with Eamon as a child in the small Wexford seaside villages he forever regards as home. Coastal erosion changes them over time and provides, in itself, a metaphor of aging
...more
Teresa
Aug 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5

Now that I've read all of Toibin's novels to date, I can see how this one, his second, led to his later works, especially The Blackwater Lightship, which I loved. That's also what I said of his first novel, The South and his third, The Story of the Night; but I think it's even more true here, as I also found echoes that resonate in his later short-story collections.

There are not only themes he will go on to more fully develop later, but his way of getting into a character through seemingly si
...more
Rob Twinem
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An elderly judge Eamon Redmond lives with his wife Carmel and travels to the fair city of Dublin everyday to fulfill his high court role. A quiet, thoughtful, deeply intellectual man Eamon often reflects on his life in the present and moments of his childhood that helped shape and create the person he is today. His childhood was a time of order, daily chores, and routine but always under the auspices of the only binding force in the community; the catholic church. A church that demanded allegian ...more
Kim
May 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: oz-6-mths-2020
Eamon Redmond is nearing retirement as a High Court judge and looking forward to going to the coastal resort of Cush with his wife, Carmel, during the holidays. In alternating chapters, we see Eamon in the present day and reminiscing about his childhood when every year he and his father (his mother having died when he was a baby) themselves went to Cush to stay with a family there - in a house that Eamon now owns. Eamon is a quiet and fairly reclusive character, never letting his emotions show, ...more
Janet
Oct 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another well-written, stunning novel by a master. I feel as if I know these people, live in their community, swim on their strand. The world of Wexford is another character in this examination of how history and tragedy shaped the lives of a family and a nation. Toibin is a writer like no other.
CynthiaS
Jun 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not sure how I missed this when it appeared in 1992...lovely Irish book that runs like a clear stream, without being falsely amped on the Troubles. It's no small talent to be able to slow fictional time down to its honest reality: families in rooms, talking, lunching in gardens worrying about getting the rugs wet. Toibin captures the simultaneous intimacy and utterly unbridgeable distances that constitute a family. For teaching purposes, this novel would be great for showing students how much de ...more
Nancy
Apr 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is somewhat similar to the superior Brooklyn in its examination of a seemingly affectless character; the point, of course, is that no one is really affectless. The structure was a little too obvious and clunky in this early work, but I was caught by the repressed neediness of Eamon by the end, as well as the beautiful descriptions of the coast and the sea. Rounded up to four stars. ...more
Eleanor
Apr 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like its central character Eamon Redmond, this book is quiet and contained. As the story moves between the present and his memories of various events in childhood, we learn why he is so undemonstrative, even with his wife of many years, whom he clearly loves.

For me, one of the most touching and painful moments came towards the end of the book when during a walk he saw something and wanted to tell his wife about it, only to remember he could not do so.

This is a book about grief. However long you
...more
Leah
Feb 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Weighed in the balances...

On the last day of the legal term, High Court judge Eamon Redmond will deliver a judgement and then head off for the summer to Cush on the coast of County Wexford, where he has spent all his summers since childhood. Outwardly he is a successful man, well respected in the country, an advisor to the government, and someone who takes the responsibility of his position seriously. But he is also reserved, his life ruled by order, and somewhat remote even from his closest fam
...more
Rick
Jun 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Toibin is among our most deft and compassionate of writers but also among our most revealing. He writes with that observant, precise style that falls between the worlds of a documentary photographer and imagist poet. The small bits matter. What we almost say. What we prefer in moments both ordinary and significant. What soothes us and what we need escape from. The Heather Blazing is Toibin’s second novel. It’s set in contemporary Ireland with a judge as its primary protagonist but it is a person ...more
Richard Springer
Sep 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book about the silences that occur between people and the difficulties of really knowing someone,even a spouse, when that person is very reticent to talk about their inner feelings and life-changing experiences. I don't know if growing up in an Irish Catholic family, as I did, helped in my appreciation of this book, but it certainly resonated for me. The main character, a judge, is dealing with memories about his relationship with his father, his father's debilitating stroke, the relat ...more
Russell Bittner
Dec 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“He went out to the shed to get coal. The night was pitch dark: with no moon or stars. Back inside, he sat at the window and looked out at Tuskar and the fierce beam of light which came at intervals. He watched for it, it was much slower than a heartbeat or the ticking of a clock. It came in its own time, unfolding its light clear and full against the darkness which was everywhere outside” (p. 157).


Colm Toíbín isn’t a stylist in the traditional sense of the word. There’s no single sentence you
...more
Richard Moss
Oct 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Colm Toibin's second novel is sparely written, and subtle, but it punches hard.

Eamon Redmond is an Irish High Court Judge. We first encounter him in his job, but much of the novel's focus is on different domestic periods of his life.

Redmond is hard to get a handle on - not just for the reader, but also for his close family.

On the face of it, his childhood is privileged, but the loss of his mother in his infancy, and his father's health problems leave scars.

In the present day, another crisis con
...more
Jennifer
Sep 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: softfruit, kindle, 2018
I really love the way Com Toibin writes - there is something about the pace and tone of his novels that I find so soothing. They start off slowly, building a world, introducing you to characters, giving you a glimpse into their every day lives and the next thing you know you are fully engaged in their hopes and fears and problems. You ache when they suffer and you enjoy their small pleasures. I read this book on a trip to Ireland and it was perfect for the occasion. We weren't staying in the sam ...more
Chris
If you are planning a trip to Dublin and western Ireland, pick up this book. While I found it a touch slow, the pace is deliberate and is an incredibly moving story. To think this was Toibin's second novel shows his genius was there from the start. ...more
Maria Hill AKA MH Books
Once again Colm Tobin's has created a very real character. ...more
Lizp
Apr 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautifully written book. I return to it over and over. Toibin’s prose is magical.

Some people didn’t like the judge character, Redmond. I thought he was an interesting and complex character. The book tells the story of Eamon Redmond, an Irish High Court judge. It flashes between his childhood and his later life. He lives in a small Wexford village as a child. Redmond is a staunch member of Fianna Fail. De Valera and Haughey ( both Fianna Fáil leaders) feature in the book.

Early in the b
...more
Kelsey
Mar 04, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
1.5

Depressing, dissatisfying, and dull. The writing seemed as bland as could be imagined, sentences like "He walked along, noticing the blue sky. He liked the blue of the sky, then he turned to head down the street." For this being largely a story about the erosion of a mans life thru metaphors it was not very lyrical or eloquent. The writing was as basic as you can get. I never felt any interest in any of the characters. The sense of detachment between the reader and Eamon is profound- which de
...more
Jonathan
Sep 08, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I can't say that this was anywhere near my favourite of Colm Toibin's novels, however I was visting Dublin for most of the time I was reading it, and as the action moves back and forth between the city and a coastal town it was good to read it for my holiday.

The story is about Eamon, a judge, and his family. He is a bit disconnected from his wife, daughter and son. We learn that this is due to things that happened in his childhood and young adulthood. I also felt a lack of empathy for him (inten
...more
Celia
Fantastic Historical Fiction.

"At Boolavogue as the sun was selling O’er the bright May meadows of Shelmalier, A rebel hand set the heather blazing And brought the neighbours from far and near.”

This story takes place in Ireland.

A workaholic lawyer and his loving wife. He loves her very much too but seems unable to share his thoughts and himself with her (at least mentally).

The chapters switch between present time and growing up. All this in the first tense. We get to know Eamon better than his ow
...more
Jana
Sep 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irish
I think this is my 6th Colm Tóibín, and I hope to read them all. With this one I had the great good fortune of reading it whilst in Dublin, where much of it is set, and then in southwestern Ireland which isn’t too far from where the rest takes place. This is a somber story. It goes back and forth in time and it is apparent that much is based on his father and grandfather’s life (confirmed in the afterward). Tóibín is a beautiful writer. I met him at the Booker awards a few years ago and he was d ...more
Meg
Jan 09, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am reading a number of Irish writers in preparation for our April trip. I enjoyed the author’s development of the judge’s character over time in this novel, such that i understood why he became the man he did, and had great empathy for him compared to other characters in the story. While others may have seen him as isolated, it was the only way he could be. A great study in growing up and relating to the people in your life, and there being real barriers to knowing how to or being able to. Als ...more
Betsy
May 22, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is beautifully written, but it's difficult to read about this disconnected man. ...more
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Colm Tóibín FRSL, is an Irish novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, journalist, critic, and poet. Tóibín is currently Irene and Sidney B. Silverman Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University in Manhattan and succeeded Martin Amis as professor of creative writing at the University of Manchester.

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