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Cover for The Blackwater Lightship

The Blackwater Lightship

A Novel

Colm Toibin


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From the author of The Master and Brooklyn, Colm Tóibín weaves together the lives of three generations of estranged women as they reunite to witness and mourn the death of a brother, a son, and a grandson.

It is Ireland in the early 1990s. Helen, her mother, Lily, and her grandmother, Dora, have come together to tend to Helen's brother, Declan, who is dying of AIDS. With Declan's two friends, the six of them are forced to plumb the shoals of their own histories and to come to terms with each other.​

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, The Blackwater Lightship is a deeply resonant story about three generations of an estranged family reuniting to mourn an untimely death. In spare, luminous prose, Colm Tóibín explores the nature of love and the complex emotions inside a family at war with itself. Hailed as "a genuine work of art" (Chicago Tribune), this is a novel about the capacity of stories to heal the deepest wounds.

Praise For The Blackwater Lightship: A Novel

Francine Prose Elle Beautifully crafted...spare and devastating...

The Wall Street Journal The Blackwater Lightship is the most perfect work on the Booker list...The prose is economical and deft, and the book is rich with entrancing stories.

Jim Marks The Washington Post Book World ...supple, beautifully modulated prose, complex relationships and careful construction...a powerful and absorbing novel.

Mark Levin Men's Journal Tóibín is a superb technician with a brave soul. The Blackwater Lightship is a great and humanizing novel.

Robert Sullivan Vogue Tóibín writes with high-voltage restraint.

Judy Lightfoot The Seattle Times So much is here and you long to grasp it whole...the best new novel this reviewer has read all year.

Scribner, 9780743203319, 288pp.

Publication Date: June 5, 2001

About the Author

Colm Tóibín is the author of ten novels, including The Magician, winner of the Rathbones Folio Prize; The Master, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Brooklyn, winner of the Costa Book Award; The Testament of Mary; and Nora Webster, as well as two story collections and several books of criticism. He is the Irene and Sidney B. Silverman Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University and has been named as the Laureate for Irish Fiction for 2022–2024 by the Arts Council of Ireland. Three times shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Tóibín lives in Dublin and New York.