Colm Toibin’s The South is about Katherine Proctor, a woman who is coming into her own in the 1950’s. She abandons her husband and child after she learns the type of man she married and thinks her son is just a miniature version of him. She leaves Ireland and heads to Barcelona to begin her new life. She came from a wealthy Protestant family and her mother supported her while she led an artistic life in the Pyrenees with her Spanish revolutionary lover
Throughout the story Katherine isolates herself from everyone, even when she’s in a relationship or with friends. She always keeps her distance and surrounds herself with men who do the same thing. Toibin writes her as such a sad and discontent character. She has immense control over her life, especially for the time period, but doesn’t take control of her own happiness.
Toibin is economical with words, but doesn’t hold back with emotions. There is so much depth to the emotions, specifically with Katherine and her children, that I needed to take a break while reading this book to prevent the sadness from overwhelming me. Maybe its because I have children, or the style allows the reader to put their own emotions onto the characters since nothing is spelled out, but the emotions that ran beyond the words was so powerful.
This book was a great story about a woman trying to live her life freely but being stifled by her isolation. Colm Toibin is a great writer and this is a wonderful example.
Read May 2013