The Heather Blazing

The Heather Blazing

4.6 7
by Colm Toibin

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The sea is slowly eating into the land and the hill with the old watchtower has completely disappeared. The nearest house has crumbled and fallen into the sea. It is Ireland in the late twentieth century. Eamon Redmond is a judge in the Irish High Court. Obsessed all his life by the letter and spirit of the law, he is just beginning to discover how painfully…  See more details below


The sea is slowly eating into the land and the hill with the old watchtower has completely disappeared. The nearest house has crumbled and fallen into the sea. It is Ireland in the late twentieth century. Eamon Redmond is a judge in the Irish High Court. Obsessed all his life by the letter and spirit of the law, he is just beginning to discover how painfully unconnected he is from other human beings. With effortless fluency, Colm Toibin reconstructs the history of Eamon's relationships - with his father, his first "girl," his wife, and the children who barely know him. He gives us a family as minutely realized as any of John McGahern's, and he writes about Eamon's affection for the landscape of his childhood on the east coast of Ireland with such skill that the land itself becomes a character. The result is a novel that ensnares us with its emotional intensity and dazzles with its crystalline prose. In The Heather Blazing, Colm Toibin displays once again the gifts that illuminated The South, a book described by Don DeLillo as "a grand achievement," and by John Banville as "a daring imaginative feat...a splendid first novel."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Irish novelist Toibin here follows up his Irish Times /Aer Lingus Irish Literature Award-winning first book, The South , with another extended study in paralysis--not the physical kind, but rather the willed emotional stasis that James Joyce, in a famous formulation, contended gripped the Irish soul. The hero here is Eamon Redmond, a High Court judge in Dublin who is readying for retirement. He and his wife, Carmel, are thinking of moving permanently to the south coast, near Enniscorthy, a place filled with childhood memories for them both. As they contemplate the joys of their autumn years, strains in their relations emerge: their unwed daughter announces she is pregnant; Eamon writes an unpopular opinion in a civil rights case; and Carmine accuses Eamon of always having been distant (``You sound bored. It is one of the things that you have learned to do over the years''). Toibin's acclaimed prose style--measured and restrained as a Victorian memoir yet poetic in precision--makes a character of the brooding, enigmatic Irish weather and gives voice to the darker side of the Irish character. As in Joyce's stories in Dubliners , the proceedings lead to an epiphany of sorts, as Eamon finds himself doting on his grandson at the shore. A small advance in the moral education of Eamon Redmond, yes; but under Toibin's generous, forgiving gaze, the moment rings profound. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Scholarly, aloof Eamon Redmond became a judge in Dublin's high court at a relatively young age after a lonely childhood. His meticulously constructed judgments adhere so strictly to the letter of the law that room for appeal is impossible. But what of compassion? Why do his wife and children turn their backs on his decisions? This novel is more a character study than the action-packed tale suggested by the title. The narrative leapfrogs from past to present as Redmond, the motherless boy, plods along with his father, listening to tales of earlier uprisings. His happiest times, as both man and boy, come when he is swimming or walking along the southern Irish coast. When his wife of many years dies and he is truly alone, solitude is no longer the prize he once sought. Toibin ( The South , LJ 7/91) has a subtle way of ensnaring the reader into Redmond's life. Recommended for serious fiction collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/92.-- Marion Hanscom, Binghamton Univ. Lib., N.Y.
From the Publisher
“[A] stunning Irish novel, which seems to derive its clear and affecting style in part from the staunch personality of its protagonist…and in part from the chilly beauty of the south-east coast of Ireland.”—The New Yorker

“The more one thinks about this clear-headed yet intense book, the stronger the impression it leaves.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review

The Heather Blazing makes a breathtaking leap into the realm of Joyce’s Dubliners.”—Mirabella

“There are…a handful of writers who manage to combine our time’s awareness of the boot tracks families leave on their members’ psyches with a direct and uncomplicated experience of those wounded lives. They are masters, and there are precious few of them…To nominate someone for that august company, Colm Tóibín seems an unavoidable candidate.”—Geoffrey Stokes, The Boston Globe

"This lovely, understated novel proceeds with stately grace."—Alice McDermott, The Washington Post Book World

“Beautifully written…Tóibín weaves past and present together in a way designed to extract maximum resonance…One of the book’s surprises is its subtle humor, its awareness of small ironies.”—Voice Literary Supplement

“The novel is narrated dispassionately and with deceptive simplicity, moving between the public figure of the judge in his study and the terrible deaths of childhood…It is impossible to read Tóibín without being moved, touched and finally changed.”—Linda Grant, Independent on Sunday

“The quiet but relentless force of Tóibín’s prose, its honed honesty and extraordinary shading of color and mood, animates his stories…There are breathtaking moments, episodes of glassing clarity and trueness to the deepest chords of emotional and spiritual life.”—Vince Passaro, New York Newsday

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Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.24(w) x 7.82(h) x 0.68(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Colm Tóibín is the author of seven novels, including The Blackwater Lightship; The Master, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Brooklyn, winner of the Costa Book Award; and The Testament of Mary, as well as two story collections. Twice shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Tóibín lives in Dublin and New York.

Brief Biography

Dublin, Ireland
Date of Birth:
May 30, 1955
Place of Birth:
Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland
St. Peter's College, Wexford; University College, Dublin, B.A. in English and history

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The Heather Blazing 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great book showing the hand of a great writer. Our hero is a High Court Judge who is the law, casting a cold eye on life while the state struggles with terrorism, nationalism and the religious secular divide. Toibin brings us through this man to his very soul and we find most human emotions and a humbling but noble past. A great journey and an insight to another world.
Guest More than 1 year ago
the protagonist, Eamon Redmond suffers the lack of a mother in his childhood and this follows him to his adulthood, where he is unable to get 'close' to female and male members of his own family. This book deals with the landscape of ireland and metaphorically implies that eamon's life is like that of the land: eroding. this is highly appropriate as the heather blazing was first published in 1994, a time when the peace process in n.ireland was crumbling. excellent.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rolls her over and spreads her legs. I begin to pump in and out. You moan with pleasure.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Me and you working together to save our clan.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
" we leave... now!" He slams the pedal to the floor and they zoomed to "car ride one" on the search to start thier journey.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago