The Blazing Heather / Colm Toibin

What a fortuitous discovery. Knowing nothing more about this 1992 book by Colm Toibin other than it had won a prestigious literary award, I picked up a copy at my local public library. His second novel, it tells the story of Eamon Redmond, a judge in the Irish High Court. Reconstructing his relationships with his wife and children, it includes the memories of a childhood where his father raised him after the death of his mother in childbirth. These memories provide a clue to his future dealings with his own family. He is a man who from his earliest days has found comfort in the black and white world of the legal system. It is in the gray areas of relationships that Eamon has difficulty connecting with other people. He is not an unkind man or one incapable of feeling love, but expressing it seems beyond him. His thoughts are consumed by the legal cases he is dealing with. The novel also plots the politics of Ireland becoming an independent country. But its focus never strays far from the detailed portrayal of a marriage and the strained relationship with his two adult children. The description of his wife’s stroke and incapacity is stunningly delivered.   His grief and loneliness following her death tugs on the heart strings. It is a story that is beautifully written, filled with the private moments of joys and sorrows all of us have experienced. While the reader might be frustrated by Eamon’s remoteness, his humanness will win their sympathy and affection. I recommend this novel to anyone interested in the intricacies of the human heart. It possesses a stately grace that will charm and involve the reader from beginning to end.

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