Everything that Toibin writes is marvelous and disturbing because he descrbes accurately human dramas in everyday life that obsess all of us constantly . Why is it that we never forgive our parents certain actions that they committed perhaps innocently but which were devatating to us during our childhood and remains awful till our old age.. ? or why can we never get along and never will, with our mother for example ? These awful psychic wowwunds are at the core of the lives of the characters in this novel which concentrates on the final illness of a young man Declan, who is dying from Aids .
He has not told anyone of his family and it is his sister, Helen, who is sent to tell both the grand' mother and the mother of this horrendous fate. Now this is Ireland and a very catholic country where homosexuality is severely judged and family shame is a fact, so this revelation is doubly difficult in this matriarchy, whose members are part of a very structured, church going community with curious neighbors, unflinching priests and family ties all over the country.Toibin shows this atmosphere perfectly, with humor and a certain desperation ; the rivalry between powerful families , the desire to achieve recognition and prestige through conformism and least but not last , the overwhelming » idees fixes » against both England and Religion ( if it is protestantism). Family dramas are prisoners of many embedded social walls , before dealing with their own conflicts , which drive most to drink or to escape and flight.Here we see repression and desolation.
The sister Helen is the most interesting character ; she suffers from a fundamental un- ease or dispossession of her innate liberty because she hates her own mother lilly. The basic personality of lilly is unbearable to her and it is not an erasable feeling Helen cannot deal with it when for ex.they all must be in the same house in order to take care of the dying Declan .That is a very profound conflict in the human soul, to be confronted to the detestation of one of our parents, as we often see in the works of Dostoievsky or Chekhov and also Balzac : to live with it is unbearable . The contempt for a mother or a father which can hardly be hidden and repressed is a psychic wound that sears the family in two , hurts the children unconscciously and naturally fills the hero with unsurmontable guilt. What is there to do ?
Few writers deal with this enormous problem which is prevalent in my opinion probably in all societies and causes immense suffering.(Imagine being the son or daugher of Kaddhafi for ex ? terrible example, sorry !) )he conflict is left open here but there is a lessening of the crisis and a small repose is achieved : we are spared the horrendous waiting fo the condemned patient to die ,an ordeal that most families know well ; so the tragic death of Declan will be in the near future … But Helen is still not rid of her ordeal and won't be ever ; the mother lilly , although morally unattractive yet courageous and decent ,is suffering terribly also. She feels rejected cruelly .. The poor woman . King Lear himself was dreadfully rejected, perhaps rightly,and he dies from it, as we all remember.