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Catherine Talbot
Photo: Fiach O'Neill

Catherine Talbot

Dublin via Wicklow

Where in Dublin do you live?
Where are you from?

What are you reading right now?

Nora by Colm Tóibín

Tell us a bit about it...

Set in Wexford, Nora Webster is the story of Nora who is trying to come to terms with the death of her husband, while raising her young boys and re-entering the workforce. It deals with her insecurities, that she has hidden behind when her husband was alive. Dealing with parochial issues and relationships, Nora sets out on a path of bravery. I am a huge Colm Tóibín fan and over Christmas have enjoyed re-visiting some of his earlier work, The Empty Family, Mothers and Sons and The South. The elegance of his prose never ceases to amaze me and it is very interesting to see how he has sown the seeds of many of his great novels like The Master in earlier works, thus showing that there are some themes that can never go away for an author.

What is your favourite book of all time?

Middlemarch by George Eliot

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A story of provincial life, this is a book that I return to often. The sheer heft of it is something in itself that I enjoy. Middlemarch is a richly layered book. Eliot gives us characters that come alive on the page, Dorothea agrees to marry Casaubon, a much older man, not because she loves him but because she will be secure. Lydgate the ambitious doctor marries the beautiful yet vain Rosamond and ends up losing all his money trying to keep her happy. Although a commentary on Victorian society, its anxieties are modern, covering political thought, the institution of marriage, wealth and ambition.

What book do you remember most from childhood?

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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I loved this book as a girl and I have read it to my own children. It is the story of Mary Lennox, an orphan in bad health who goes to live in her uncle’s large and oppressive mansion. At night she can hear crying and eventually discovers the source, a cousin Colin, who lives in the house in a secret room. Colin is poorly and hasn’t been outside for years. Mary finds an entrance to a secret walled garden and together they explore it, resulting in her and Colin’s transformation. I have never forgotten the feeling of excitement when I read this first, and my children love it also.

Which of your books is battered from using over and over again?

Winter Journal by Paul Auster

Tell us a bit about it...

Paul Auster is my favourite author and I will read anything that he writes. Winter Journal is non-fiction. Narrated from the second person viewpoint, it is Auster’s acknowledgement that he is in the winter of his life (64 at time of writing). He worries how the process of ageing will affect his physicality, and despite this, he embraces it. He writes of his mother’s death, a childhood friend being struck by lightning, his heart attack, a car crash with his wife Siri Hustvedt, allowing him to consider his own mortality. In spite of this foreboding and pain, it is strangely uplifting

What is your favourite book by an international author?

A Man In Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Tell us a bit about it...

A Man in Love is the second part of Knausgaard’s brilliant My Struggle series. It focuses on early parenthood and the writer’s turbulent relationship with his wife Linda. Knausgaard’s ability to make the mundane interesting is phenomenal and the prose is stunning. While I was deeply involved in the minutiae of his life, I found that I could not stop reflecting on my own, comparing his thoughts with mine. I had never before read a book where I could relate to every single sentence. I am addicted to this writer and to his bravery with his truth.

What book do you feel depicts your own or another culture most vividly?

Bad Day In Blackrock by Kevin Power

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Sally Rooney captures aspects of south Dublin entitlement and class in both her novels, but I think that Kevin Power captures it best in Bad Day in Blackrock, a story about about the lives of young, privileged students that ends in tragedy.

Is there a book that changed your mind/perspective about something?

The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín

Tell us a bit about it...

This is a short novel , which is effectively a lament from Mary, describing the final walk of her son Jesus to Calvary, the place of his crucifixion. It is beautiful. What most affected me was the universal depiction of a mother's love for her son. It is so powerful in language that it had me in tears at the very end.


The Books

We have been finding out about the books that matter to you, to grow this virtual bookshelf that represents the lives, families and culture of the people that call Dublin home. Here are a selection of some of the books that you have been telling us …

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