Josh's Reviews > The Empty Family

The Empty Family by Colm Tóibín
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's review
Mar 27, 2011

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 loss is inherent to a bygone era) but his contemporary portrayals of gay men today are very believable. "One Minus One" and "The Empty Family" are like sonatas. They're both first-person accounts not of loss but of grief, specifically the avoidance of sadness and the ways it sweeps you under suddenly but is swept back deep inside you just a bit later. "Barcelona, 1975" was amusing and kind of hot; just some fun. The only story I wasn't captivated by was "The New Spain." It had moments where I felt the protagonist's regret and accompanying denial, but mostly I didn't care much what happened to her. All the same, beautiful, delicate, but gripping writing.
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