Set in the 1950s, this is the story of Katherine Proctor who "flees husband, child and County Wexford (Ireland) for Spain. She, a Catalan lover, and another Irish emigre, painters all, fashion new worlds in their work while fighting past worlds in their lives." (Library Journal)
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Colm Tóibín was born in Ireland and lives in Dublin. He is one of Ireland's best known journalists. He is the author of The South, winner of the Irish Times/Aer Lingus Prize. In 1995, he was awarded the Academy of Arts and Letters E. M. Forster Prize. He is also the author of The Heather Blazing and The Story of the Night.From Kirkus Reviews:
A married Irishwoman leaves her family and finds fulfillment with a painter in Spain: no fireworks in this muted first novel from Irish journalist Toibin, though he does avoid rebirth-in-the- sun clich‚s. The year is 1950. What causes 32-year-old Katherine Proctor to bolt from husband Tom, son Richard, and their southern Irish farm is Tom's dragging their poor neighbors into court when they infringe on his land; it's her land too, and Tom's arrogance gives the deathblow to a loveless marriage. In London, Katherine gets encouragement from her mother (who had left her husband during the Troubles of 1920) and moves on to Barcelona (where her mother's checks will sustain her). Through the common interest of painting, she soon meets Michael Graves, a working-class man from her hometown who will become a supportive friend, and Miguel, who will become her lover. Miguel sells enough paintings for the two to move to the Pyrenees, to a village that feels like ``the quiet top of the world.'' An anarchist fighter against Franco, Miguel had retreated here during the Civil War; slowly Katherine realizes that neither their ``ravenous'' love nor the birth of a daughter, Isona, will heal the wounds of a war that for Miguel still continues. Ominously, he starts to see Katherine as the class enemy; after police harassment and the death of his ``leader,'' Carlos Puig, he goes to pieces, killing Isona and himself. The book's final third skims the years rapidly, as Katherine returns to Ireland, makes peace with her grown son Richard and his wife (Tom has died), and devotes herself to her painting. Toibin's spare prose (not mannered or fake Hemingway) and partial glimpses into Katherine's consciousness and background (Protestant gentry) work well enough at first, but as the years pile up, so do the questions; eventually, Toibin's withholding technique looks like a simple inability to deliver. Still, a promising debut. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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