Tuesday 30 October 2018

Book Review: Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know by Colm Tóibín (Non-Fiction)

Title: Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know
Author: Colm Tóibín

Publication Date: 30 October 2018
Review Copy from Publisher


In Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know Colm Toibin turns his incisive gaze to three of Ireland's greatest writers, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats and James Joyce, and their earliest influences: their fathers. From Wilde's doctor father, a brilliant statistician and amateur archaeologist, who was taken to court by an obsessed lover in a strange premonition of what would happen to his son; to Yeats' father, an impoverished artist and brilliant letter-writer who could never finish a painting; to John Stanislaus Joyce, a singer, drinker and story-teller, a man unwilling to provide for his large family, whom his son James memorialised in his work.

Colm Toibin illuminates not only the complex relationships between three of the greatest writers in the English language and their fathers, but also illustrates the surprising ways they surface in their work.

Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know is a fascinating read for anyone who enjoys the works of Wilde, Yeats and Joyce. Tóibín casts a keen eye over the figures of their fathers, offering us a biography of their lives and a close look at the influence they exerted over their famous sons, whether personal or literary. At under 200 pages, it is a quick little read, but no less insightful for its brevity. I also learnt a few things I hadn't known about Ireland in the Victorian era. This is probably not going to mean so much to those unfamiliar with Wilde, Yeats and Joyce; however, for the established fans, this work offers an interesting 'behind-the-scenes' glimpse at their lives and influences.

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