Books

House of Names

Colm Tóibín

'They cut her hair before they dragged her to the place of sacrifice. Her mouth was gagged to stop her cursing her father, her cowardly, two-tongued father. Nonetheless, they heard her muffled screams.'

On the day of his daughter's wedding, Agamemnon orders her sacrifice.

His daughter is led to her death, and Agamemnon leads his army into battle, where he is rewarded with glorious victory.

Three years later, he returns home and his murderous action has set the entire family - mother, brother, sister - on a path of intimate violence, as they enter a world of hushed commands and soundless journeys through the palace's dungeons and bedchambers. As his wife seeks his death, his daughter, Electra, is the silent observer to the family's game of innocence while his son, Orestes, is sent into bewildering, frightening exile where survival is far from certain. Out of their desolating loss, Electra and Orestes must find a way to right these wrongs of the past even if it means committing themselves to a terrible, barbarous act.

House of Names is a story of intense longing and shocking betrayal. It is a work of great beauty, and daring, from one of our finest living writers.

Brooklyn

Colm Tóibín

It is Ireland in the early 1950s and for Eilis Lacey, as for so many young Irish girls, opportunities are scarce. So when her sister arranges for her to emigrate to New York, Eilis knows she must go.

Arriving in a crowded lodging house in Brooklyn, Eilis can only be reminded of what she has sacrificed. And just as she takes tentative steps towards friendship, and perhaps something more, Eilis receives news which sends her back to Ireland. There she will be confronted by a terrible dilemma - a devastating choice between duty and one great love.

Nora Webster

Colm Tóibín

* * * Shortlisted for the 2014 Costa Novel Awards and the 2015 Folio Prize * * *

Nora Webster is the heartbreaking new novel from one of the greatest novelists writing today.

It is the late 1960s in Ireland. Nora Webster is living in a small town, looking after her four children, trying to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. She is fiercely intelligent, at times difficult and impatient, at times kind, but she is trapped by her circumstances, and waiting for any chance which will lift her beyond them.

Slowly, through the gift of music and the power of friendship, she finds a glimmer of hope and a way of starting again. As the dynamic of the family changes, she seems both fiercely self-possessed but also a figure of great moral ambiguity, making her one of the most memorable heroines in contemporary fiction.

The portrait that is painted in the years that follow is harrowing, piercingly insightful, always tender and deeply true. Colm Tóibín's Nora is a character as resonant as Anna Karenina or Madame Bovary and Nora Webster is a novel that illuminates our own lives in a way that is rare in literature. Its humanity and compassion forge an unforgettable reading experience.

'A profoundly gifted world writer' Sebastian Barry

The Master

Colm Tóibín (and others)

Penguin presents the unabridged, downloadable audiobook edition of The Master by Colm Toibin, read by William Hope.

In January 1895 Henry James anticipates the opening of his first play, Guy Domville, in London. The production fails, and he returns, chastened and humiliated, to his writing desk. The result is a string of masterpieces, but they are produced at a high personal cost.


In The Master Colm Tóibín captures the exquisite anguish of a man who circulated in the grand parlours and palazzos of Europe, who was astonishingly vibrant and alive in his art, and yet whose attempts at intimacy inevitably failed him and those he tried to love. It is a powerful account of the hazards of putting the life of the mind before affairs of the heart.

The Testament of Mary

Colm Tóibín

SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2013

Colm Tóibín's The Testament of Mary is the moving story of the Virgin Mary, told by a novelist famous for writing brilliantly about the family.

From the author of Brooklyn, in a voice that is both tender and filled with rage, The Testament of Mary tells the story of a cataclysmic event which led to an overpowering grief. For Mary, her son has been lost to the world, and now, living in exile and in fear, she tries to piece together the memories of the events that led to her son's brutal death. To her he was a vulnerable figure, surrounded by men who could not be trusted, living in a time of turmoil and change.

As her life and her suffering begin to acquire the resonance of myth, Mary struggles to break the silence surrounding what she knows to have happened. In her effort to tell the truth in all its gnarled complexity, she slowly emerges as a figure of immense moral stature as well as a woman from history rendered now as fully human.

Praise for The Testament of Mary:

'This is a short book, but it is as dense as a diamond. It is as tragic as a Spanish pieta, but it is completely heretical...Tóibín maintains all the dignity of Mary without subscribing to the myths that have accumulated around her' Edmund White, Irish Times

'Depicting the harrowing losses and evasions that can go on between mothers and sons...Tóibín creates a reversed Pièta: he holds the mother in his arms' Independent

'A beautiful and daring work...it takes its power from the surprise of its language, its almost shocking characterization' Mary Gordon, New York Times

New Ways to Kill Your Mother

Colm Tóibín

From Colm Tóibín comes New Ways to Kill Your Mother, a fabulously entertaining book about writers and their families.

In this wonderfully entertaining and enlightening collection, Colm Tóibín not only explores the often tense relationship between writers and their families but also conveys, with a rare tenderness and wit, the great joy of reading their work. Here is W.B. Yeats harshly responding to his own father's literary efforts; Thomas Mann ruining his children's prospects; Tennessee Williams haunted by his sister's mental illness; and John Cheever being beastly to his wife.

Praise for New Ways to Kill Your Mother:

'A brilliant book...Tóibín is a supple, subtle thinker, alive to hints and undertones, wary of absolute truths' Robert Hanks, New Statesman

'A penetrating and often very funny inquiry into the fraught complicity between parent and child, brother and sister' Daily Telegraph

'Insightful and compassionate, assured and knowledgeable, never less than fascinating. An impressive, fine and engaging collection' Independent on Sunday

De Profundis and Other Prison Writings

Oscar Wilde (and others)

De Profundis and Other Prison Writings is a new selection of Oscar Wilde's prison letters and poetry in Penguin Classics, edited and introduced by Colm Tóibín.

At the start of 1895, Oscar Wilde was the toast of London, widely feted for his most recent stage success, An Ideal Husband. But by May of the same year, Wilde was in Reading prison sentenced to hard labour. 'De Profundis' is an epistolic account of Oscar Wilde's spiritual journey while in prison, and describes his new, shocking conviction that 'the supreme vice is shallowness'. This edition also includes further letters to his wife, his friends, the Home Secretary, newspaper editors and his lover Lord Alfred Douglas - Bosie - himself, as well as 'The Ballad of Reading Gaol', the heart-rending poem about a man sentenced to hang for the murder of the woman he loved.

This Penguin edition is based on the definitive Complete Letters, edited by Wilde's grandson Merlin Holland. Colm Tóibín's introduction explores Wilde's duality in love, politics and literature. This edition also includes notes on the text and suggested further reading.

Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin. His three volumes of short fiction, The Happy Prince, Lord Arthur Savile's Crime and A House of Pomegranates, together with his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, won him a reputation as a writer with an original talent, a reputation enhanced by the phenomenal success of his society comedies - Lady Windermere's Fan, A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest.

Colm Tóibín is the author of five novels, including The Blackwater Lightship and The Master, and a collection of stories, Mothers and Sons. His essay collection Love in a Dark Time: Gay Lives from Wilde to Almodovar appeared in 2002. He is the editor of The Penguin Book of Irish Fiction.

A Guest at the Feast

Colm Tóibín (and others)

A Guest at the Feast is Colm Tóibín's touching memoir.

A Guest at the Feast moves from the small town of Enniscorthy to Dublin, from memories of a mother who always had a book on the go to the author's early adulthood, from a love of literature to the influences of place and family. Tóibín's captivating memoir is the story of a writer coming of age and his connections between home, work and love. It is a perfect gem of a book.

Persuasion (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

Jane Austen (and others)

Written during Jane Austen's race against failing health, Persuasion tells the story of Anne Elliot, a woman who - at twenty-seven - is no longer young and has few romantic prospects. Eight years ago, she was persuaded by her friend Lady Russell to break off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth, a handsome naval captain with neither fortune nor rank. When Anne and Frederick meet again, he has acquired both, but still feels the sting of her rejection. A brilliant satire of vanity and pretension, Austen's last completed novel is also a movingly told love story tinged with the heartache of missed opportunities.

The Empty Family

Colm Tóibín

In the captivating stories that make up The Empty Family Colm Tóibín delineates with a tender and unique sensibility lives of unspoken or unconscious longing, of individuals, often willingly, cast adrift from their history.

'I imagined lamplight, shadows, soft voices, clothes put away, the low sound of late news on the radio. And I thought as I crossed the bridge at Baggot Street to face the last stretch of my own journey home that no matter what I had done, I had not done that.'

From the young Pakistani immigrant who seeks some kind of permanence in a strange town to the Irish woman reluctantly returning to Dublin and discovering a city that refuses to acknowledge her long absence each of Tóibín's stories manage to contain whole worlds: stories of fleeing the past and returning home, of family threads lost and ultimately regained.

'Exquisite . . . The chief reason to read these stories is the peculiar power of Colm Tóibín's prose' Telegraph

'Astonishingly precise, depicting complex and conflicted states of mind with rare clarity' Observer

'Beautifully observed' Sunday Times

Another Country

James Baldwin (and others)

Published in 1962, this is an emotionally intense novel of love, hatred, race and liberal America in the 1960s. Set in Greenwhich Village, Harlem and France, ANOTHER COUNTRY tells the story of the suicide of jazz-musician Rufus Scott and the friends who search for an understanding of his life and death, discovering uncomfortable truths about themselves along the way.
Colm Tóibín

Biography

Colm Tóibín was born in Enniscorthy in 1955. He is the author of eight novels including Blackwater LightshipThe Master and The Testament of Mary, all three of which were nominated for the Booker Prize, with The Master also winning the IMPAC Award, and Brooklyn, which won the Costa Novel Award. He has also published two collections of stories and many works of non-fiction. His most recent novel is Nora Webster. He lives in Dublin.