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The Blackwater Lightship Paperback – Jun 5 2001
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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
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
"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.
Most recent customer reviews
The book arrived in 10 days in pristine condition. I was going to read and review it for a book club that I had recently joined but since it hadn't arrived in time for me to read... Read morePublished on Nov. 20 2011 by Calgary reader
This book has only 288 pages, with its light touch and relaxing statement it can be read in one sitting. But this is a gem indeed. The atmosphere is superb. Read morePublished on Nov. 21 2003 by Sen Peng Eu
Three generations of women who have been apart for many years come together when the youngest woman's brother is dying of AIDS. Sounds good, but so very far from the truth. Read morePublished on Feb. 10 2003
Toibin has written a sincere, moving account about family frictions and resolutions in a believable manner. It's not easy to do that. Read morePublished on Jan. 22 2003
Colm Toibin's "Blackwater Lightship" is arguably the dark horse in this year's Booker Prize race. Read morePublished on July 17 2001
Mr. Colm Toibin addresses an event both common and simultaneously unique in, "The Blackwater Lightship". Read morePublished on May 22 2001 by taking a rest
Colm Toibin cuts straight to the heart in this sensitive novel of an independent daughter, long estranged from her overly controlling mother, and their attempt to reach some sort... Read morePublished on March 15 2001 by Mary Whipple
I was tremendously moved by this book. In spite of the fact that gay relationships play a significant role in the story, it's not a self-consciously "gay novel"; the real... Read morePublished on March 12 2001 by P. Lozar