John Banville at Literary Review:
This book is, in its sly way, far more substantial than it might at first seem – more, indeed, than it presents itself as being. Colm Tóibín’s subject is the influence of their fathers on the artistic thought, attitude and writings of three great Irish literary artists: Oscar Wilde, W B Yeats and James Joyce. What Tóibín has produced is not only a group portrait of three men who in their way were almost as brilliant as their sons, but also an illuminating meditation on the familial sources of artistic inspiration.
Happily, Tóibín is no Freudian and avoids obfuscating speculations on, for instance, the Oedipus complex, although he does cheerfully acknowledge that the three sons often chafed under the burdens placed on them by their variously annoying, interfering, disreputable and importunate paters. If it is not easy being a father, it is sometimes nigh impossible to be the father’s offspring. As Kingsley Amis pointed out, the greatest gift a father can bestow on his son is to die early.