Toibin's writing is clear-eyed and smart, but not fussy.
During he last year my mother grew obsessive about the emblems of empire: the Union Jack, the Tower of London, the Queen, and Mrs. Thatcher. As the light in her eyes began to fade, she plastered the apartment with tourist posters of Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guard and magazine photographs of the royal family; her accent became posher and her face took on the guise of an elderly duchess who had suffered a long exile. She was lonely and sad and distant as the end came close.As I revisit the novel's opening paragraph, I can see how Toibin established a novel about resisting death - the death of Richard's mother, of Richard's innocence, the death throes of the British Empire in the struggle with Argentina over Las Malvinas, the end of the average Argentinian's being able to sweep under the rug the knowledge of the thousands of political murders carried out, which is not unlike what society tried to do with AIDS in the 1980s. If it didn't touch them personally, one could pretend it didn't exist. But while symbols may help us hang on to what has already passed, life marches forward. If we live longer and we don't shut our eyes, increased knowledge is inevitable. One may either be its victim or live with the truth and act out of its consequences. Toibin's narrative mirrors this relentless current of uncovering. The writing seems powered by an engine, I couldn't stop reading it, and yet the story is also deeply beautiful. The idyll doesn't last, but the resulting love is deep, the result of open eyes and passion-driven hearts, looking forward.