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The Blackwater Lightship Paperback – Jun 5 2001

4.1 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (June 5 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743203313
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743203319
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.8 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #291,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

In the opening pages of The Blackwater Lightship, a stranger drives up to Helen O'Doherty's Dublin house to tell her that her brother Declan is in the hospital and needs to see her. At his request, she joins him at the creepy seaside house of their grandmother--where, as children, they awaited news of their dying father. What's more, they're not the only guests. Paul and Larry, friends of Declan who have known about his HIV diagnosis far longer than his family, are the next to arrive. And then comes Helen's estranged mother Lily, whom she hasn't seen in years. Still angry over the emotional abandonment she suffered during her youth, Helen had refused even to invite Lily to her wedding. Now she must come to terms not only with the imminent death of her beloved brother but also with her mother and grandmother--all at once.

Colm Tóibín (The Story of the Night) delivers this unsentimental account of a troubled family in spare but suggestive language. He does allow his characters a few high-spirited remarks and the occasional outburst. Otherwise, though, he keeps his tone even, allowing for the perfect integration of a light, unforced symbolism. For Lily, broken hopes and dreams are bound up with the Blackwater Lightship, one of two lighthouses that once stood in the Irish Sea near Ballyconnigar. As a child, she believed that these would always be there:

Tuskar was a man and the Blackwater Lightship was a woman and they were both sending signals to each other and to other lighthouses, like mating calls. He was forceful and strong and she was weaker but more constant, and sometimes she began to shine her light before darkness had really fallen.
For Helen, on the other hand, it was the house itself that prompted her deepest, happiest fantasies. But now Lily has sold the property and shattered Helen's dream that "it would be her refuge, and that her mother, despite everything, would be there for her and would take her in and shelter her and protect her. She had never entertained this thought before; now, she knew that it was irrational and groundless, but nonetheless ... she knew that it was real and it explained everything." What Declan has done by drawing them all together at Granny's house is to enact this potent, poignant fantasy. Whether it has the power to reconstruct his family is another matter, but in any case, The Blackwater Lightship remains a gripping narrative, deftly delivered by a master storyteller. --Regina Marler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

One of the young Turks of Irish fiction (The Heather Blazing; The Story of the Night) again examines themes of loss and death in a novel, shortlisted for the Booker Prize. In clipped, stripped-down prose, T?ib!n unfolds the family saga of Helen, mother Lily and grandmother Dora, three generations of women whose estrangement is ended by the grief they share. Helen's brother, Declan, is dying of AIDS. Helen receives the news of Declan's illness from Paul, her brother's best friend. Unlike her mother or grandmother, Helen has known for years that Declan is gay, but he has kept his illness a secret, even from her. Declan sends Paul to fetch Helen to the hospital, where he asks her to tell their mother and grandmother about his condition. Declan wants them all to spend a few days together at Granny's seaside house in Cush, Wexford. Years ago, Declan and Helen stayed there while Lily attended to their father, who was dying in a hospital in Dublin. Larry, another friend, completes the cast of characters surrounding Declan during his decline. T?ib!n has not written a "dying of AIDS" story here. Instead, by focusing on the relationships of those around Declan, he has created a delicately powerful story of a family's failure to face difficult feelings and their stubborn refusal to admit need. The novel does not take a flamboyant tone, but instead keeps faith with the quiet power of everyday life to imbue its straightforward prose with the essence of drama. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Helen O'Doherty lives in Dublin with her husband and two sons. She is a school principal and set with her life. She is happy and even though she may be a bit more reserved in her marriage than her husband would like, all seems well. When school is over she and her hubby plan a large party in their new home to celebrate. Her husband and children will go the next day to visit relatives, and Helen will follow when she clears up her end of school issues. Helen worries about her life and her children. Are they too needy? Is it right that the youngest needs his parents so thoroughly? Helen seems to be a thoroughly modern woman of the 90's- ready to live her life. Helen's family is off and she is ready to go to school when a friend of her brother, Declan, arrives to tell her Declan is seriously ill and needs to see her. And so it goes.. Paul, Declan's friend tells her he has AIDS and has been ill for quite a while. He does not have a serious relationship right now, and he does need a place to go to recuperate. It is decided by Declan that he wants to go to Grandmother's house, but first, would Helen tell Grandmother and mom, Lily about his disease?
No small deed is this one...Helen has had an on -again off-again relationship with her mother and grandmother for years. In fact, she has only seen them at Christmas time, but neither was invited to her wedding nor have they met her family or children. How will she tell them, what will they say and how will they react? Oh, no, what to do...
Mom- Lily, Helen, Paul and Larry, Declan's friends all move into grandmother's house in a desolate spot on the ocean near the Blackwater Lightship. This place and house has particular meaning to the family-they were brought up here.
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Format: Paperback
I am part of a newly started book club. The novel "The Blackwater lightship" by Colm Tóibín (shortlisted for the Booker Prize) was chosen as the second book to read (my first - as I have just joined the club). The number of girls attending our dinners vary between 3 and 12, all Australian but me. As I joined late, my friend Rachael had already finished the book. She did not care too much for it, so I started out slightly biased to the book. But that quickly changed, and I hadn't read too many pages before I emailed Rachael and said "I really like this book!!"..
The story is set in Ireland in the early 1990'ies, and it starts as a stranger comes to Helen O'Doherty's house to tell her that her brother, Declan, is dying of AIDS. Helen rushes to visits Declan in the hospital in Dublin. Declan tells her that he would like to leave the hospital and spend some time at his grandmother's house by the sea. Helen and Declan spent a lot of time at their grandparent's house as children, but Helen worries that a dying grandson will be to much for their aging grandmother. Nevertheless, they go there, and they all end up living at Dora's place: Declan, Helen, Lily, and two of Declan's friends; Paul and Larry.
Helen and her mother Lily have a very distant and (on the surface of things) unemotional relationship. It really impressed me that a man has with such amazing authenticity been able to capture this complex mother-daughter relationship.
Although Declan is the one who is dying, the book is first and foremost about Helen and how she accepts and understand the past, forgives what was to forgive, and how she grow to be emotionally attached again to her mother Lily.
My favorite character from the book is by far the grandmother, Dora.
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Format: Hardcover
A personal favourite, THE BLACKWATER LIGHTSHIP is a frank, intelligent and always intense work. The novel is about self-examination, opening the closet, understanding the past and embracing the future. It begs you to forgive and forget, and try to see the past another way.
All six of this novel's major characters (Helen, Lily, Declan, Mrs Deveroux, Paul and Larry) are unforgettable, and most scenes created are memorable, and, at times, incredibly painful to read- the depiction of Declan's "mood", the coldness between Lily and Helen, the often irrational behaviour of Mrs Deveroux, the relationship between Cathal and Manus to cite a few.
The car scene with Helen, Lily and Declan would have to be my favourite. The narration of this scene is simply beautiful and emotional. Yes, it could be a bit sentimental, but it will surely touch and nourish your heart and soul. A rare, original dramatic moment.
(Written here also is the most memorable, sensitive account of a 'love that dare not speak' relationship)
Shortlisted for the 1999 BOOKER PRIZE (DISGRACE won), this is one novel you will surely treasure, value and enjoy. I can only recommend this unmissable work by Toibin.
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Format: Paperback
Quite simply, Colm Toibin's "The Blackwater Lightship" is the finest novel or memoir I've read by a critically acclaimed Irish or Irish-American author. He has a subtle, magical way with prose that will keep you thinking about the tale long after you've finished reading it. I am not surprised that this splendid little novel was short-listed for the British Booker Prize. It's one of the finest explorations of a dysfunctional family I've come across. I strongly commend Toibin for having the determination and talent to write well about AIDS, and making it an important, and sympathetic, part of this tale.
"The Blackwater Lightship" is primarily about Helen and how she becomes emotionally attached again to her mother Lily, when they are confronted with the news that her brother Declan is dying from AIDS. The story moves swiftly from Declan's hospital ward in Dublin to the seaside home of Lily's mother Dora, so Declan can enjoy one last glimpse of the sea. The tale also revolves around Declan's two male friends and their relationship with his sister, mother and grandmother.
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