All posts for the month August, 2011

Review of The South by Colm Toibin

Published 28/08/2011 by damselwithadulcimer

<a href=”; style=”float: left; padding-right: 20px”><img alt=”The South” border=”0″ src=”; /></a><a href=””>The South</a> by <a href=””>Colm Tóibín</a><br/>
My rating: <a href=”″>5 of 5 stars</a><br /><br />
I read my first Colm Toibin novel (Brooklyn) a few months ago and am a complete convert.  The South was his first published fictional novel and he shows many of the concerns of his later work in this earlier one.  There is a female protagonist, there are life changes, displacements and moves away from, and back to, home.  Enniscorthy features again and helps Katherine Proctor reach conclusions about her life, as well as being a place where she renews relationships.  Katherine travels, physically and metaphorically, between Spain and Ireland as she travels through her adult years.  She develops and matures, learns insights and suffers loss, but Toibin never judges her.  He deftly paints her and her surroundings, as she too takes up art.  He is more of a water colourist than an oil painter, but he writes deftly and precisely, getting under your skin and leaving lasting imagery with you.
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The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore

Published 20/08/2011 by damselwithadulcimer

I have to admit that Helen Dunmore can do no wrong where I’m concerned. The Betrayal picks up on the story of Andrei and Anna in post-war Stalinist Leningrad. I was impressed by the way Dunmore worked the earlier novel, The Siege, and her evocation of the sensations of hunger and cold that formed the background to Leningrad during the siege of 1941/2, and this later tale is equally impressive.

The reader is sucked into the story of the young couple, and those around them. I found myself reading the book as if I were also waiting for that dreaded knock on the door. The fear and tension are palpable, as are the feelings of living under a totalitarian regime, where people can be arrested and accused of non-existent crimes merely because of the delusions of a paranoid dictator and the machine that grinds away under his wheels. It’s a story that makes you care desperately about the characters it depicts, even the less sympathetic ones, as you’re aware that everybody is a victim, even those who appear to wield power.

Dunmore researches and writes meticulously; you will feel as if you are in cold war Russia, struggling to survive and maintain your dignity.