The Blackwater Lightship
Review by Sue@spiritualbookclub.com on 2005-07-11
This book had a great sense of place, and for those of you in love with the Irish coast, here's a book for you. Toibin handles his characters with ease in the midst of dis-ease, and he does so deftly. This one makes me want to read more of his work because he does not give easy answers to some of life's big questions. We had a long discussion on this one, as a local spirituality book club, about the nature and dynamics of the relationships Toibin builds in this book. See for yourself :-) Questions for a Spirituality Book Club 1. Your overall impression of the book? 2. Is there anyway in which you would say this is a distinctively Irish novel? How? Why? 3. What were your first impressions of the Grandmother's house? p. 55 4. Do you think some people have the power to talk with the dead? pp. 65-67 5. Why does Declan have an "inexhaustible need" for his mother's attention? p. 92 6. Helen's mother Lily says to her clients, "Just call us and we'll be here for you." Why do you think she is there for her business clients, but not her family? p. 94 7. Lily says, "Just when I have managed to pick myself up, this happens now." How is that remark indicative of her? p. 98 What do you feel towards Lily's character? Sympathy? Dislike? 8. When Helen says, "I think he felt that at a time like this we would all forget our differences," Lily responds, "Well, I don't notice any difference in you." Why does Lily seem to have such animosity towards Helen? p. 99 9. When Larry says, "I think I prefer your granny to your mother," Helen responds, "I did that for a while too. It's a mistake." Why does she say this? p. 129 10. And, as for vocabulary: What is an Aga? p. 132 What is a strand? What is marl? 11. Why does Helen have animosity towards her grandmother? p. 142 We see a more menacing side of Granny here, p. 136, does that seem to be more true to her? Later Helen says of her, "She is demented." p. 160 What do you think of Granny's character? Do you get a clear emotional picture of her? 12. Who are Helen's allies in her life? Is her character painted too isolated? What do you think? p. 142 Helen's isolation in the world p. 259 13. Why does Helen make sure there is never silence with Granny? p. 135 14. How about the lack of physical description of Helen? Were you okay with that? Did you need more? p. 137 15. After the priest marries the gay couple, he says to them, "Welcome to the Catholic Church." What do you think he meant by that? How does this story advance the novel? p. 173 16. Is it realistic that people, under these circumstances, would share so much of their stories? p. 177 17. Helen's relationship to her mother p. 183 18. Do you agree with Paul that Helen hasn't said "reason enough"to be so angry? p. 184 19. What do you think of the symbolism of Blackwater lightship? Was it a good title choice? 20. Why were Declan and Helen estranged? Why didn't he stay with her? p. 203 21. Why does Lily say she'd drop all to come to Helen's aid? Would she? p. 210 22. Toibin paints the conundrom of parenthood here, do you think this is true? p. 157 23. Did you think Helen was going to do something in her deep despair? p. 260 24. After all that time together, would Helen and her mother actually leave Declan at the hospital to go back to Helen's house? p. 268 25. What did you think of the ending? Is there peace between Helen and her mother? p.273 26. Did you get "enough" of each character to feel like they were fleshed out? 27. What did you learn from this novel? Any insights for your own life?