The year just started, but novelist Colm Tóibín has already delivered one of 2011’s best books. In The Empty Family, the Kirkus review said that the author “reconfirms his mastery of the short story.” With this collection, Tóibín spans place (Ireland, Spain, England) and time (19th century to present-day), stocking the book with characters, many gay, often struggling to reconcile their past with their present. Oh, and it’s way more sexually explicit than anything in his 2009 book, Brooklyn.


10 killer lines from Tóibín’s starred book:

“I, like anyone else who was born, will be condemned eventually to lie in darkness as long as time lasts.”

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“She disliked her husband only when he came to her at night in those first months; his fumbling and panting, his eager hands and his sour breath, gave her a sense that daylight and many layers of clothing and servants and large furnished rooms and chatter about politics or paintings were ways to distract people from feeling a revulsion towards each other.”

“No matter how much they talked of love or faithfulness or the unity of man and wife, no one would ever realize how apart people were in these hours, how deeply and singly themselves.”

“Life, he said, life, that was the material that he used and needed. There could never be enough life. But it was only the beginning, of course, because life was thin.”

“It came to me that the sea is not a pattern, it is a struggle. . .The waves were like people battling out there, full of consciousness and will and destiny and an abiding sense of their own beauty.”

“The bitter past has come back to me tonight in these alien streets with a force that feels like violence.”

“Most of us are gay or straight; Donnacha simply made no effort, he took whatever came his way.”

“In her company there was never exactly silence, even when nothing was being said.”

“In my innocence, I believed there were no rules in an orgy.”

“Sometimes it’s the hardest thing to die, almost harder than to live.”


Pub info:

The Empty Family

Colm Tóibín

Scribner / Jan. 4, 2011 / 9781439138328 / $24.00