Colm Tóibín Recommends: 4 Expertly Written Books That’ll Draw You In

January 9 2023
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There are a handful of writers every generation that are wholly unique. You can read a chapter, even a paragraph, in their hand and instantly recognize them as the author. Colm Tóibín is one such writer. And while we all eagerly await his newest work, A GUEST AT THE FEAST, a collection of essays coming out January 17, we’ve compiled a list of great works recommended by the man himself to keep you occupied.

Each of the books below, much like a Tóibín title, are a celebration of the writing craft and are guaranteed to draw you in and light you up. Enjoy.

The New Life
by Tom Crewe

“THE NEW LIFE is filled with nuance and tenderness, steeped in the atmosphere of late nineteenth century London, a world on the brink of social and sexual change. Tom Crewe's brilliant novel dramatizes the relationship between the visionary and the brave, charting the lives of men and women who inspired not only political progress but an entire new way of living and loving.”

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The New Life
Tom Crewe

A brilliant and captivating debut, in the tradition of Alan Hollinghurst and Colm Tóibín, about two marriages, two forbidden love affairs, and the passionate search for social and sexual freedom in late 19th-century London.

In this powerful, visceral novel about love, sex, and the struggle for a better world, two men collaborate on a book in defense of homosexuality, then a crime—risking their old lives in the process.

In the summer of 1894, John Addington and Henry Ellis begin writing a book arguing that what they call “inversion,” or homosexuality, is a natural, harmless variation of human sexuality. Though they have never met, John and Henry both live in London with their wives, Catherine and Edith, and in each marriage there is a third party: John has a lover, a working class man named Frank, and Edith spends almost as much time with her friend Angelica as she does with Henry. John and Catherine have three grown daughters and a long, settled marriage, over the course of which Catherine has tried to accept her husband’s sexuality and her own role in life; Henry and Edith’s marriage is intended to be a revolution in itself, an intellectual partnership that dismantles the traditional understanding of what matrimony means.

Shortly before the book is to be published, Oscar Wilde is arrested. John and Henry must decide whether to go on, risking social ostracism and imprisonment, or to give up the project for their own safety and the safety of the people they love. Is this the right moment to advance their cause? Is publishing bravery or foolishness? And what price is too high to pay for a new way of living?

A richly detailed, insightful, and dramatic debut novel, The New Life is an unforgettable portrait of two men, a city, and a generation discovering the nature and limits of personal freedom as the 20th century comes into view.

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Colm Tóibín Recommends: 4 Expertly Written Books That’ll Draw You In

By Off the Shelf Staff | January 9, 2023

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The Five Wounds
by Kirstin Valdez Quade

“The characters in this engrossing novel are created in luminous and memorable detail. Just as the pacing is perfect, so too are the tact and care with which each scene is made. Kirstin Valdez Quade, by concentrating on the truth of small moments, has brought a whole world into focus.”

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The Five Wounds
Kirstin Valdez Quade

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Colm Tóibín Recommends: 4 Expertly Written Books That’ll Draw You In

By Off the Shelf Staff | January 9, 2023

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The Flamethrowers
by Rachel Kushner

“THE FLAMETHROWERS is an ambitious and serious American novel. The sentences are sharp and gorgeously made. The scope is wide. The political and the personal are locked in a deep and fascinating embrace. Kushner writes about excitement and tension with gusto and grace; she describes Italy and New York with a dark and savvy irony.”

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The Flamethrowers
Rachel Kushner

An ambitious literary novel set in Rome, New York, and the desert of the American West in the late 1970s, The Flamethrowers captures the idealism and hypocrisy of art, politics, and violence. A National Book Award finalist and selected as one of the ten best books of 2013 by The New York Times, it confirmed Rachel Kushner’s emerging reputation as a writer of spectacular talent and imagination.

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Small Things Like These
by Claire Keegan

“In SMALL THINGS LIKE THESE, Claire Keegan creates scenes with astonishing clarity and lucidity. This is the story of what happened in Ireland, told with sympathy and emotional accuracy. From winter skies to the tiniest tick of speech to the baking of a Christmas cake, Claire Keegan makes her moments real—and then she makes them matter.”

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Small Things Like These
Claire Keegan

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A Guest at the Feast
by Colm Toibin

A GUEST AT THE FEAST comes out this January 17! From one of the most engaging and brilliant writers of our time comes a collection of essays about growing up in Ireland during radical change; about cancer, priests, popes, homosexuality, and literature.

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A Guest at the Feast
Colm Toibin

From one of the most engaging and brilliant writers of our time comes a collection of essays about growing up in Ireland during radical change; about cancer, priests, popes, homosexuality, and literature.

“IT ALL STARTED WITH MY BALLS.” So begins Colm Tóibín’s fabulously compelling essay, laced with humor, about his diagnosis and treatment for cancer. Tóibín survives, but he has entered, as he says, “the age of one ball.” The second essay in this seductive collection is a memoir about growing up in the 1950s and ’60s in the small town of Enniscorthy in County Wexford, the setting for many of Tóibín’s novels and stories, including Brooklyn, The Blackwater Lightship and Nora Webster. Tóibín describes his education by priests, several of whom were condemned years later for abuse. He writes about Irish history and literature, and about the long, tragic journey toward legal and social acceptance of homosexuality.

In Part Two, Tóibín profiles three complex and vexing popes—John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis. And in Part Three, he writes about a trio of authors who reckon with religion in their fiction. The final essay, “Alone in Venice,” is a gorgeous account of Toibin’s journey, at the height of the pandemic, to the beloved city where he has set some of his most dazzling scenes. The streets, canals, churches and museums were empty. He had them to himself, an experience both haunting and exhilarating.

A Guest at the Feast is both an intimate encounter with a supremely creative artist and a glorious celebration of writing.

Table of Contents

PART ONE
Cancer: My Part in Its Downfall
A Guest at the Feast
A Brush with the Law

PART TWO
The Paradoxical Pope
Among the Flutterers
The Bergoglio Smile: Pope Francis
The Ferns Report

PART THREE
Putting Religion in Its Place: Marilynne Robinson
Issues of Truth and Invention: Francis Stuart
Snail Slow: John McGahern

EPILOGUE
Alone in Venice

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MENTIONED IN:

Colm Tóibín Recommends: 4 Expertly Written Books That’ll Draw You In

By Off the Shelf Staff | January 9, 2023

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Photo credit: iStock / Julia Klueva

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