Sunday, January 10, 2010

Short Story Monday: "The Color of Shadows" by Colm Toibin

After reading Brooklyn by Colm Toibin , I was prepared for a quiet, understated story and that's exactly what I found in "The Color of Shadows".

The story opens:
"Ali Hyland, one of the neighbors in Enniscorthy, phoned Paul in Dublin to say that his Aunt Josie, his father's sister, had been found that morning on the floor, having fallen out of bed in the house where she lived alone; they thought that she had been lying there most of the night."

Aunt Josie is taken to the hospital, then placed in a nursing home where she slowly begins to fade, and eventually dies. The end of life experience at the nursing home was especially well-written. Unfortunately, there's not much more to say.

Paul, whose father died when he was young, was raised by his aunt due to circumstances, involving alcohol, that are not fully revealed. He never saw his mother again, but believes her to still be alive. There are unresolved issues, or shadows, that come to light in the course of Aunt Josie's decline and death.

This was a good story, but nothing special. Perhaps after Brooklyn, my expectations were too high. "The Color of Shadows" appeared in The New Yorker magazine in April 2009. You can read it on their website.

For more Short Story Monday posts, visit John at The Book Mine Set.

21 comments:

  1. You always find the most interesting things! I was not even aware that Toibin had written short fiction. Printing this one out now.

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  2. Frances - Toibin has at least one collection of stories, Mother and Sons, published in 2008. I was wondering if this story was from that collection, but it doesn't appear to be. This is the first I've read of his stories. I'd be interested to hear what you think of it.

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  3. Well, when I saw your post title, I got excited. I have Brooklyn on my short term TBR, having heard such wonderful things about it. Too bad this one wasn't quite as excellent!

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  4. Oh dear, this does sound rather grim doesn't it.

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  5. Gosh, JoAnn, it reminds me of that sad little Joyce story, The Sisters, in its darkness and unspoken backstory details. I begin to see that just because someone is a good novel writer doesn't necessarily mean he or she writes a good short story. Some are really gifted at it, like Nicola Slade who wrote the one I reported on this week. I think you'll like hers. Cheery, lovely, warm.

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  6. Each March I read a few Irish short stories in honour of St. Patrick's Day. I'll bookmark this one for then.

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  7. This does indeed sound grim. I always worry about being like Aunt Josie. That seems like an unfortunate way to end up!

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  8. Probably not the best choice for ym first Toibin, then. But Brooklyn is on my list!

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  9. Sandy - I'm not sure how this compares to Toibin's other stories. Brooklyn was quiet, but wonderful.

    Darlene - It was a little bit of a downer, but I am still thinking about it.

    Nan - I hadn't thought of that, but there are some similarities with The Sisters. Writing short stories must be totally different than writing novels - different skills, etc... so being good at one may not necessarily translate to being good at the other. Can't wait to read the story you wrote about!

    John - Good idea! Irish stories for St. Patricks Day. I'll get Dubliners out again.

    Rhapsody - A little grim, but if I'm still thinking about it, that's a good thing!

    Nymeth - Don't read this! Go straight to Brooklyn, lol!

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  10. The nice thing about short stories is that if you don't care for it at least you didn't have too much time invested in it!!

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  11. I didn't realize Toibin wrote short stories, either.But I still haven't read Brooklyn *looks down at feet*. Loved The Master--thought it brilliant!

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  12. Thanks for the review and the link. I am trying to avoid many Senior stories like this one because I am currently going through it with my mom. I do have Brookyn on my TBR.

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  14. DS - I hope to read The Master one of these days, too. Have heard such wonderful things about it!

    Teddy Rose - It's a difficult thing to go through and, if you're in the midst of it, probably best to avoid the story. Brooklyn was excellent though.

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  15. I didn't know he'd written short stories! I read his novel about Henry James (The Master) several years ago, and really liked it, but I haven't read anything else by him. It sounds like I should put Brooklyn on the TBR list. :)

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  16. Eva - Toibin has a collection of short stories, Mothers and Sons. As far as I can tell, this is not part of that collection. I'd like to read The Master soon... definitely put Brooklyn on your tbr list!

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  17. enjoy reading Colm Toibin. He's one of the most prominent gay writers alive. His works usually don't engage readers right from the beginning, because he takes time to unfold the story, feeding readers minute details like mother feeding her baby. He has a knack for portraying inter-generational relationships. I have a copy of Mother and Sons, and I'll peruse it sooner than I think now that I have read your teaser! :)

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  18. Matt - Love how you describe Toibin's writing! I thought Brooklyn was wonderful, and look forward to reading more of his work as the year progresses.

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  19. I love the New Yorker stories! Do you listen to their fiction podcasts? :)

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  20. Mark David - The New Yorker is a great short story source! The latest issue has one by T.C. Boyle, and I adore his stories. I will definitely investigate their fiction podcasts. Thanks so much for mentioning it!

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