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The Empty Family

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  1,895 ratings  ·  318 reviews
On the heels of his breakout success, the bestselling and award-winning novel Brooklyn, Colm Tóibín returns with a stunning collection of new stories.

In the breathtaking long story “The Street,” Tóibín imagines a relationship between Pakistani workers in Barcelona—a taboo affair in a community ruled by obedience and silence. In “Two Women,” an eminent and taciturn Irish s

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Hardcover, 275 pages
Published January 4th 2011 by Scribner (first published 2010)
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3.64  · 
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 ·  1,895 ratings  ·  318 reviews


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Steve
Nov 25, 2015 rated it liked it
It’s not a very promising start, I know, when a reviewer’s lead sentence begs your indulgence. In this case, it’s to allow my personal reading history with the talented Mr. Tóibín. The first book of his I read was the much-loved Brooklyn in 2010. In fact, I would have purchased the movie rights then and there if I’d had the spare millions lying around. Then I read The Master, his well-written deep-dive into the character of Henry James. That one didn’t strike me as cinematic, but it was engaging ...more
Sketchbook
Be advised : Colm Toibin is the new "lit darling." The lemmings are racing to the Irish coast. I don't get it. Much of his writing is "beautiful," but it's also like one of those crusty French meringue / bisquits -- lovely to look at, but nothing inside. Having just read these 9 stories, I can recall only one. Yet I can rattle on about 7 or 8 stories x Maugham, Maupassant, Roald Dahl, John Colllier, and several by du Maurier (to name a few), read years ago.

Once again Toibin presents a stunt cent
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Fionnuala
Some of the stories in this collection are as nearly perfect as a short story can be. Toibin has a powerful ability to render the raw emotion of love and loss in words which echo in the readers mind long after the book has been finished.
Sheenagh Pugh
Jan 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: short-stories
If all the stories in this collection were as absorbing as "Silence" and "The Colour of Shadows", I'd have given it a 5 or 4. On the other hand, if they were all as inconsequential and self-absorbed as "Barcelona, 1975" or "One Minus One" it'd be a 1.

They all concern people alienated in some way from home and family, and usually returning home if only temporarily. I'm not sure if I like collections of stories to be as themed and alike as this. I think one advantage of a collection of stories is
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Teresa
Feb 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
I've given this 4 stars, instead of 5, because I liked his Mothers and Sons: Stories even more. And because one story in the middle, while just as well-written as the others, eluded me. As usual, his work is full of characters that live, and his stories are written in such a deceptively simple style that the endings hit you with a quiet devastation -- something that can make a story for me. And I don't think the 'devastation' is necessarily bleak, as the character is showing an accommodation to ...more
Sotiris Karaiskos
9 stories, quite different from each other, without any specific link, written by the highly competent Irish writer who I think this way of literary expression suits him. Because there is no connection between these stories contained in the book, I should take things from the beginning.

In the first short story we have the story of a man who has moved away from his family and especially from his mother until he finally returned to her only for her last moments. So he is confronted with his memori
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AdiTurbo
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the best collections of stories I have read in a long while. Toibin is a master, whose every written word is fully thought out. The stories all revolve around love and its loss, loneliness and family. The concept of family is used here in its broader sense, and means many different things to the different characters — safety, acceptance, meeting sexual and emotional needs, and much else. There is great accuracy in the depiction of psychological and emotional landscapes. Superb writing, mo ...more
Terzah
Jan 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
I love Colm Toibin's writing. It's so spot on much of the time that you wonder if there could possibly be any other way to say the things he says. I love the women he creates. They're so real, from the crusty to the geriatric to the young and the fierce and the selfish. Many of the stories in this collection didn't let me down. A big fan of his novel "Brooklyn", I was once again amazed at the reality of his characters and situations: the awkwardness of reconciling adolescent activities and attit ...more
BAM The Bibliomaniac
WARNING: there is some explicit sex in this book. It doesn't bother me, but I know some get upset about it and I didn't want someone to pick this book after reading my review and get gobsmacked.
gorecki
Even though I have only read two books by Colm Tóibín so far, The Testament of Mary and The Empty Family, I do believe he is a very good storyteller and I am sure I will reach for more of his work very soon. The Empty Family was the first collection of his short stories I've read, and I am not sure if I have missed to notice and grasp something, or if his short stories simply do not resonate with me that well.
Some of the stories in this book left me wanting more, wanting to know what actually ha
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Janet
May 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's been a long time since I've read a short story collection. As one might expect, some were better than others. Certainly none were anything less than very good. I especially enjoyed "Two Women" and "Silence." The latter containing a description of sex with an older partner which I almost wish I had never read.

Tress Huntley
What I enjoy about Colm Toibin's writing style is its simultaneous urgency and quietness. This effect was much more powerful in his novel Brooklyn, and drew me to want to read more of his writing. The Empty Family is a collection of short stories set in modern day Ireland, 1970s Spain and ninteenth Century England. Each story focuses on the emotional truth of its central character, a truth that is private and deeply held. Toibin has an almost magical way of drawing out these emotional truths whi ...more
David
Feb 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
With the exception of the title story, whose nameless first-person narrator's tortured elliptical reminiscences were too baffling to be affecting, the stories in this collection are terrific. With his characteristic understated prose and perfect pitch, Toibin examines themes of exile, loss, and regret. Most of the characters in these stories have made a choice to leave their place of origin (Ireland, Spain, Pakistan - in most of the stories Toibin is interested in exploring the regrets that such ...more
Shawn
Jan 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
These are superbly written and I would give 5 stars to at least two of them, "Two Women" and "The Colour of Shadows," while for sheer beauty of language the title story stands out. There is a gay element to each of the stories except for "Two Women" and "The New Spain" (the longest story here and, in my opinion, the least of them.) One reviewer here said that there was graphic and gratuitous gay sex here. Graphic some of it certainly is, but hardly gratuitous. I would say that it's next to impos ...more
Gail
Oct 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I knew he wanted me to move the telescope, to focus now on Rosslare Harbour, on Tuskar Rock, on Raven Point, on the strand at Curracloe, agree with him that they could be seen so clearly even in this faded evening light. But what he showed me first had amazed me. The sight of the waves, miles out, their dutiful and frenetic solitude, their dull indifference to their fate, made me want to cry out, made me want to ask him if he could leave me alone for some time to take this in. I could hear him b ...more
Lynda
Jul 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
What an quietly accomplished author Colm Toibin is, as large men are often graceful dancers this large writer has a feather like touch. This collection contains stories set in Ireland, Spain and brief interludes in America. As ofen in his writing Toibin discusses the idea of home and what home is comprised of : an old women moves into a care home in the West of Ireland, a young woman returns to Spain to find her grandmother"s home desecrated, migrants in Barcelona make themselves a home together ...more
Antoinette
Feb 24, 2017 rated it liked it
So, much as Colm Toibin is a wonderful writer, I really only enjoyed about half the stories in this collection, so for that reason, I am only giving this book 3 Stars and really would not recommend it to anyone I know.
Sivananthi T
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing lyrical book exploring stories of loss and reconciliation.
Rachelle Urist
Apr 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
I love reading Colm Toibin. (His name is pronounced Column Toe-BEAN. Just learned that.) Reading anything by him is like being enveloped in velvet, or in the softest cashmere in the world. It's soft, warm, and comforting. This book's short stories are infused with a gay sensibility. After reading CT's BROOKLYN, I assumed he was heterosexual. Then I read THE MASTER, discovered CT's fascination with Henry James, and now see that he's also written a non-fiction study of the master. BROOKLYN is thou ...more
Anneliese
Feb 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
I read this when I heard another Irish author calling it the greatest collection of short stories to come out of Ireland since Joyce's Dubliners. I realise now that he surely must have been having a laugh. Blimey! I don't think I have come across such tedious, insipid prose and as many clichés since first year uni. Toibin has a spare, light touch resulting in quiet, unassuming prose without bells, whistles, big bangs and ubiquitous twists. However, what he could achieve in that sense is greatly ...more
Roger Brunyate
May 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: stories, ireland
Songs of Lost Innocence

"Silence," the first story in this collection by Colm Tóibín, is different from the others, being set in the 1880s and telling of Lady Gregory's love affair with the poet Wilfrid Scawen Blunt—this long before her creative association with Yeats. The theme of a remembered love affair, however, crops up in several of the other stories, all of which are contemporary or set in Tóibín's lifetime; many of them have a strongly autobiographical air.

The title story, "The Empty Fami
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Ally Armistead
Apr 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I can't remember the last time I was blown away by a short story collection, but Colm Toibin's "Empty Family" left me breathless, envious, inspired, and overjoyed to have found a writer whose stories are about something other than the fumbling of adolescence.

The stories, set in Dublin, Barcelona, and America, all capture moments of difficult intimacy: the desire, pain, and loss between men and women, men and men, men and their mothers and grandmothers, and women and their families. In each, Toib
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Teresa
Oct 11, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition


I'm not an avid reader of short stories, they usually leave me unsatisfied, but I loved Brooklyn, Colm Toibin's award winning recent novel so I decided to try again. The Empty Family is a collection of nine short stories which are linked by the themes of exile, loneliness and family. Most of the protagonists find themselves in limbo-like situations, caught in a pivotal moment where the past and present collide, where home and belonging seem vague and elusive concepts.

All of the stories (whether
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Madeline
I do not think short stories are Tóibín's strongest suit - I think longer forms serve him better (my favorite story was the longest story). A good short story can be (though I don't want to make any really strong normative claims) a bit like a slap out of nowhere, and he doesn't have that talent, which I think I . . . probably should have guessed before reading these.

But my evaluation of this book is probably not totally fair, because Brooklyn is still fresh in my mind, and I love Brooklyn with
...more
Jennifer
Dec 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories, 2010
When comparing novels to short stories, a friend of mine recently told me that she doesn't need all the detail and story line of a novel. She just wants to meet different characters, like chatting with someone on a train ride where you get just a glimpse into their life on that day. I've never been a good short story reader - I'm always looking for the story arc, wondering what the points was, and why there was no obvious resolution. So now I'm trying to approach them differently. It's hard work ...more
Josh
Mar 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I really love Colm Toibin's writing at this point. At first I was a bit underwhelmed but with time it's become apparent that his work lingers and there is a distinct way to read it. "Silence" sticks out especially for its conveyance of regret; specifically the way regret sits, alive but unobtrusive, within a person. The same can be said of "Two Women," a story which, alongside "The Pearl Fishers," reveals a surprisingly modern wit. Toibin works beautifully with historical settings (maybe because ...more
4cats
Mar 15, 2011 rated it liked it
This is the first time I've read Colm Toibin, and it won't be the last. This collection of short stories is a wonderful addition to anyone's bookshelf. I am a fan of the short story especially when a writer is skilled at allowing the reader to enter into a character's world for a brief moment and garner so much about that person, and that is what Toibin has achieved with this collection.

Some of the stories are better than others, I loved One Minus One which deals with a son returning to Ireland
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Michael
Aug 04, 2015 rated it did not like it
Based on the rave reviews, I expected to enjoy this story but was bored out my mind. Short stories are always a hit or miss for me, either all the stories are satisfying or it is forgettable. There are hardy any in between ratings, this in particular was dry and mundane. Not one story stood out to me, it was almost like the writer planted her boring thoughts on paper, hoping for the best. Either that or he audition for a movie with no prior acting experience, he just prayed that he will get the ...more
Murat Aydogdu
Apr 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
This made me remember how much I love short stories. Toibin, who I knew nothing about, is a great storyteller. The variety of characters and stories is amazing. I look forward to reading more of his work.
Stirnaite
* The future is a foreign country: they do things differently there.
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Madison Mega-Mara...: The Empty Family 1 3 Aug 14, 2012 06:09AM  

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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
“She was lonely without Blunt, but she was lonelier at the idea that the world went on as though she had not loved him.” 17 likes
“We had used up all of our time. And I wondered if that made any difference to my mother then, as she lay awake in the hospital those last few nights of her life: we had used up all of our time.” 4 likes
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