I was listening to a respected program on the radio and one of the women was praising the work of Colm Toibin and looking forward to reading his latest work, The Testament of Mary. The subject matter of this book didn’t appeal to me so I looked for one of his earlier books and found The Blackwater Lightship, published in 1999.
It tells a story of three generations of women in a fractured family in Ireland who have had little contact with one another in recent years but are brought together by the life-threatening illness of a grandson-son-brother.
It was easy to read and to watch the interactions of the three women and later their defences against both friends of the family and the town gossips, but as the book moved on there was a detailed description of the evolvement of a homosexual affair and lengthy descriptions of the effect of AIDS on the body.
Authors are told to write about things that they know. I have no objection to being introduced to a wide range of topics belonging to many different eras. Usually the new information is in small doses and merely contributes to the story line without dominating it as in this book. Was I reading a book about the relations between women in a family or a book about AIDS ? As a woman I think I would have found it more interesting if the patient at the heart of the story were a young person suffering from the side effects of chemotherapy in a last ditch effort to control breast cancer or ovarian cancer or any of the other cancers that strike young women. But that would have to be written by a different author.
Looking back now at the selfishness shown by the three women and the grudges they held , even though on the surface it seemed as they would be able to co-exist in the future at a certain level, I didn’t find any deep resolution of their problems, which is possibly how it would happen in real life.
The author writes in an interesting and flowing style so if you are interested in the subject matter of his stories no doubt you will enjoy his books.