"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."
A sample of the wonderful writings of Tóibín. The Empty Family, is a short story collection on the family theme, which is a theme he mostly uses. Colm Tóibín seems to have so many different versions of what a family is. Here we find a unique set of characters and their various family relationships. So diverse, so different and so touching. Family relations are, as we know, not always the easiest kind of relationships. Tóibín manages to takes us along the various routes that can be called family ties and it is fascinating. His language is poetic and it is like you are on a river in a small boat that carries you with a slow current.
The stories cover love between man and woman and man and man. Not only the feeling you have for your beloved, but also love for a relative. All of them give you something to think about. My personal favourite story is Two Women. The quotes below are from that story and it highlights different relationships in just a few words.
"Frances called them her neighbours now, but they were not her neighbours, they were the family who looked after her and lived in a cottage in her garden that had been, at her expense, extended many times."
"She had been with Luke for twelve years, but she had never lived with him. They had mostly met in New York, or London, or Paris. And his way of greeting her, or of seeing her to a taxi, almost tearful in the amount of tenderness he could offer, stood in for the domestic life they never had together."
"'She was with Luke before me,' she said, and once again her smile had a terrible sadness in it, but there was something elegant about her too, almost beautiful.
'This woman was the love of his life,' Rachel said to her companion and then smiled again at Frances.
'He was lucky with both of us, wasn't he?' Frances asked.
'He was the love of my life,' Rachel said. 'I can say that'."
Colm Tóibín is a master of the language of love and beauty in a setup of happiness, unhappiness and loneliness. It is something there for all of us to consider.