"I'm not sure about themes. They almost come despite me, and are never planned. Maybe this time I was thinking about exile and return--none of the characters lives where they were born. In "The Colour of Shadows" (which is the story I like best) and "The Pearl Fishers," the protagonist is a Wexford person in Dublin, which might seem a slight sort of exile, but in Ireland is a serious one. (At least it is for me; I have never really warmed to Dublin.) But within exile and return, there are characters (rather than illustrations of themes) and I am giving them autonomy and trying to tell a story, or offer a rhythm that might hit the reader's nervous system, so what comes can come despite me, and often I don't quite understand it."
- Colm Tóibín, in interview