Bedside Table: What Is Author Colm Tóibin Reading? - The Gloss Magazine

Bedside Table: What Is Author Colm Tóibin Reading?

Award-winning Irish author Colm Tóibin tells Edel Coffey what’s on his bedside table …

Colm Tóibín is the author of eleven 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, New York, and the Arts Council of Ireland Laureate for Irish Fiction for 2022–2024. Three times shortlisted for the Booker Prize, his new novel, Long Island, the sequel to Brooklyn, will be published this month. To watch Tóibín’s Art of Reading Book Club video series, visit

What’s on your bedside table? “Because I’m Laureate, I do the [Art of Reading] book club every month. I just couldn’t get over Claire Kilroy’s novel Soldier Sailor. I was overwhelmed by the level of emotion, but not just the emotion, the detail. It was almost mythological. The descriptions were raised to a level that was epic without losing the absolute detail in the daily or the routine. But it didn’t feel routine when I was reading. Even if I look out the window now and I see a mother with a buggy or a pram going along I think, oh my god, is she okay? It’s one of those books. People had spoken about its intensity but I didn’t understand what they meant. It isn’t graphic, it’s just the level of emotional control over the narrative by the author is such that you live the experience. All you have to do is start the book and you’re in a new world.

This Plague of Souls by Mike McCormack starts with the idea that you go back to your house and there’s no one there who’s meant to be there. The phone starts to ring and it’s a funny number and the voice on the other side isn’t right. I loved Solar Bones, Mike McCormack’s previous book, and I find again here, that his lone male character gets me. It’s not exactly a ghost story, it’s not science fiction, but you have to allow for mystery. I found the hidden Mayo in this novel has a particular resonance. It’s not all inlets and Croagh Patrick. He has these big factories which are there now, so it’s a modern Mayo. But it also seems like a Mayo out of dreams or science fiction.

“For the March Laureate book club, we read a novel that’s out a few years, Deirdre Madden’s Molly Fox’s Birthday. Madden [since awarded a 2024 Windham-Campbell Prize for Fiction] operates almost like a painter, with tiny stroke after tiny stroke. She has an extraordinary control over tone. She writes in a way that’s beguiling and she builds up a story of two Irish women who have known each other since college and are trying to piece together what their lives have been like.”

One of the most anticipated books of the year is Laureate for Irish Fiction Colm Toibin’s long-awaited sequel to his best-selling novel Brooklyn, says Edel Coffey. “Long Island (Picador, €13.99) is set decades after Eilis emigrates to America. She has been married to Tony for 20 years, they have two children together and she lives a comfortable life in Long Island. But, in the opening pages, a knock on her door delivers unwelcome and explosive news and she begins to reassess her whole life, including her marriage and the decision she made to leave her family and her home country all those years ago. This is a masterly meditation on love, home, longing, regret and the “sliding doors” moments of life.” @edelcoffey


READ MORE: Edel Coffey Picks 10 New Books To Read This Month


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