*225/NewEmptyFamily.jpg" />*266/NewEmptyFamily.jpg" />

The Empty Family, by Colm Tóibín

Review of Books


The Empty Family, by Colm Tóibín

Click Here to purchase these books at Kenny's Books



The Empty Family
I did everything I could to not finish Colm Tóibín’s latest collection of short stories, The Empty Family. I stared out of a bus window and watched the monotonous Garden State Parkway go by; I purposely did not sit down on the subway. This was not because I disliked Tóibín’s latest work but, on the contrary, because I didn’t want to reach the last page.

To put it simply, the stories in The Empty Family require pause. In his second collection of short fiction, Tóibín grants the same level of care and depth of inner life to each of his characters as he does to the protagonists of his seven novels, the most recent of which was the 2009 best seller Brooklyn. As Tóibín has acknowleged, these are stories of exile and return. His characters, all of them natives of either Ireland, Spain or Pakistan, are, for the most part, either finding their footing in a new land or faced with some reality of their old one. These are stories of being somewhere but having been elsewhere, and of struggling (often unsuccessfully or unconsciously) to reconcile the two.

Tóibín's fascination with Henry James is no secret: his 2005 novel, The Master, centers around a fictionalized and brilliantly empathetic account of James’ life. Tóibín’s interest in James also extends far into the stylistic realm, and in these stories Tóibín is arguably at his most Jamesian yet – from the quietly penetrating way he renders each of his characters to the deceptively uncomplicated grammar he employs to precisely unfold their thoughts and actions.

Fittingly, James makes an appearance in the first story of the book. Based somewhere in the truth (as many of the stories in this collection are), “Silence” details a little-known affair that Lady Gregory, co-founder of the Abbey Theatre and wife of the significantly older Sir William Henry Gregory, had with the poet Wilfrid Scawen Blunt. Long after the affair has ended, Lady Gregory yearns to relive it in some small way, and tells a very rearranged version of her story to an attentive James at a dinner party. This example of an inner world or a secret carefully tended to by its holder and barely glimpsed by another sets the tone for each of the powerful stories that follow – from an Irish film set designer’s quiet encounter with her deceased lover’s widow in “Two Women” to the slow emergence of a gay relationship between two immigrants in a Pakistani encleve in Barcelona in the final masterpiece of the collection, “The Street.”  
– Sheila Langan
(275 pages/Scribner/$27.00)

JFK in Ireland
Ryan Tubridy, the award winning Irish journalist and host of The Late Late Show, brings history to life in JFK in Ireland: Four Days that Changed a President. It opens in the Oval Office, with Kenny O’Donnell, the President’s Secretary, trying to convince JFK not to go Ireland. The book quickly captures the reader’s attention as Kennedy responds: “I am the President of the United States, not you. When I say I want to go to Ireland, it means that I’m going to Ireland. Make the arrangements.” Having traveled to Ireland before, JFK had a strong desire to return as President.

Part travel narrative, part biography and part political discourse, the book details JFK’s four days in Ireland, giving a stop-by-stop account of the trip. Yet Tubridy also takes readers on a journey through Kennedy’s family history, starting with his great-grandfather’s emigration from Wexford to America in 1848, all the way to JFK’s assassination and funeral.

With never-before-seen photographs, as well as images of personal correspondence scanned directly into the pages of the book, JFK in Ireland is a complete portrait of JFK’s love and admiration for the country of his
– Kristin Romano
(303 pages/HarperCollins/£20.00)


A Radiant Life: The Collected Journalism of Nuala O’Faolain
Most American readers will remember Nuala O’Faolain for her brave and powerful memoirs Are You Somebody? (1996), Almost There (2003) or for her novels, Dream of You (2001) and The Story of Chicago May. But O’Faolain, who died tragically early of lung cancer in 2008, was a journalist before and after she was a memoirist and novelist. From 1986 until 2007, she wrote an op-ed column for The Irish Times. In those twenty-one years, O’Faolain chronicled a changing Ireland – both its deep societal flaws and its promising milestones – from a singularly intellectual, feminist, and totally unpretentious perspective. Her articles have finally been gathered together in this posthumously compiled collection, A Radiant Life


Log in with your social accounts:

Or, log in with your IrishCentral account:

Forgot your password ?

Don't have an account yet? Register now !

Join IrishCentral with your social accounts:

Already have an account ?

For Newsletter Subscribers – Draw for 1 Prize on December 31st.

Prize: Your Piece of Ireland – a Square of Land in the heart of the Glens of Antrim, Ireland

More details here (or you can buy a little piece of Ireland directly):

Terms & Conditions

Or, sign up for an IrishCentral account below:

By clicking above you are indicating that you have read & agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy.

Make sure we gathered the correct information from you

By clicking above you are indicating that you have read & agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy.

You already have an account on IrishCentral! Please confirm you're the owner.

Our new policy requires our users to save a first and last name. Please update your account: