From one of contemporary literature's best-selling, critically acclaimed and beloved authors, a magnificent new novel set in Ireland, about a fiercely compelling young widow and mother of four, navigating grief and fear, struggling for hope.
Set in Wexford, Ireland, Colm Tóibín's superb seventh novel introduces the formidable, memorable and deeply moving Nora Webster. Widowed at 40, with four children and not enough money, Nora has lost the love of her life, Maurice, the man who rescued her from the stifling world to which she was born. And now she fears she may be drawn back into it. Wounded, strong-willed, clinging to secrecy in a tiny community where everyone knows your business, Nora is drowning in her own sorrow and blind to the suffering of her young sons, who have lost their father. Yet she has moments of stunning empathy and kindness, and when she begins to sing again, after decades, she finds solace, engagement, a haven - herself.
©2014 Colm Toibin (P)2014 Simon & Schuster, Inc.
I don't review every book--only books I feel strongly about--hence the many 4-5 star vs 1-2 star reviews. Just my opinions--hope they help.
I had high expectations for this book and stuck with it hoping that it would be worth it in the end. To me, it is a sadly strange story. The writing and action are often overwhelmingly vague and yet at the same time minutely precise. Almost like a randomly focused and then unfocused camera lens. A confusing mix.
Part of me wonders about this "personal exploration" of a woman--from the woman's point of view--written by a man. I mean, you can study sea lions and be an absolute expert in the field but in the end you will never actually "be" a sea lion. You will never understand sea lion-ness. I think the same thing goes when it comes to this book. Toibin will never be a woman and doesn't seem to know what women really think and feel beyond assumptions. I know--I know--each woman is different you say, but something was missing with the whole picture. I am not saying that men can't write about women. I am saying on this occasion--from this context--for me it didn't work. And no, I don't think women are like sea lions--it was just an example.
In the end it all felt remote. Very little of the action and interpretation of the action and behavior rings true or sounds plausible. Plus it's very sad and depressing to boot. Listen with caution.
Say something about yourself!
Fiona Shaw was an excellent narrator. The problem was the story. It was boring and depressing and I never felt compelled to care about Nora. I finally just gave up. I gave it three stars only because he narration was good.
I might, some reviews say his other books are much better but then many reviewers loved this book. People praise the excellent writing. I guess I am a reader that is more concerned with the story. Everyone likes something different. This just wasn't for me.
Avid reader of classics and fiction, history and well-written genre novels. Music lover and huge audiobook fan.
I really enjoyed this book which is the first one I have read by Colm Toibin. I also thought the narration was, for the most part, quite good. The only complaint I have about the narration is that a few of the characterizations were a bit over the top - almost cartoonish in tone. In the worst case the character in the book is supposed to be a mean and nasty boss at work and the vocal characterization approached the level of the wicked witch of the west. For the greater part of the book the narrator enhanced the story and did a great deal to locate the novel in place and time. It is a small flaw but a noticeable one.
The story takes place in a small town in Ireland. It is a narrowly focused portrait of a woman who has lost her husband, and it takes place in the three years following that loss. The lens of the story opens to take in a bit of the era -1969 and the years immediately following, when the troubles between the Catholics and the Protestants exploded. Otherwise, only the technology of the period distinguishes the setting - record players and cars are still luxuries and not everyone has a telephone.
The writing is very beautiful although much of the story is sad. Each sentence, each word of the book seems specifically chosen - nothing is extra - no descriptions, nothing sloppy. The prose is precise and spare and much of what happens is revealed in dialogue. The main character, Nora Webster, is not the most likable of heroines. She is thoughtful and not sentimental, but a concerned and caring mother despite not making choices that are universally applauded. During her husband's terminal illness, which occurs before the opening of the story, she left the children with her two sisters for quite a while, and she does not question that decision even as she sees the impact it has had on at least one of her children. It is clear that her marriage was the center of her emotional life. Throughout the book much of what she decides is not approved of by those around her, and she is a sort of prickly character who becomes more confident and independent over time.
The movement in the story is from about six months after her husband's death until 3 years later and traces the passage of her life from grief, resentment and loss towards her redefinition as she navigates parenthood alone and discovers what motivates and defines her in the absence of the circumstances of her younger married self. Though much of what happens in the novel is small the questions addressed by the story - what matters and how to live - are very large ones.
I was very moved by this book, by the beauty of the prose and by the minute details which made the story resonate for me. I also think despite the flaws I mentioned earlier regarding the narration that the audio version is very powerful in transmitting the character's movement over time. I highly recommend this book for serious readers who value beautiful writing.
English major. Love to read
I don't remember how I found this book, but it popped into my life and, as soon as I finished it, I started it all over again. I know now that I have many other Toibin books that will sustain me through the dark PNWest winter which makes me very happy.
First of all, the narration on this is phenomenal. I had thought it was more than one person until I went back to check. Fiona Shaw makes this novel come alive and Colm Toibin gives her a lot to work with - beautifully drawn characters, simple but compelling story line and an undercurrent of sorrow turning to coping turning to joy. I loved it.
Found it very dull. Barely finished. I should have felt more moved by her plight. Perhaps people in Ireland could relate more to the character.
Great story of strength, pain, growth, and self-knowledge. Nora's dreads and simultaneous willingness to move forward are both inspiring and true. Excellent reader.
Colm toibin gets women . I can't think of any other male writer who delves so deeply into the mind and emotions of his female characters. Nora Webster is proof of this. His depiction of a woman emerging from grief and finding new footing in the world is exquisite. Too bad Fiona Shaw's reading didn't measure up for me. She made everyone but Nora sound old and simple minded. Have liked her work in the past, but this was disappointing.
This book had a slow start and when I became involved in Nora,s transformation of herself I couldn't put the book down And Fiona Shaw isa marvelous actor
Had I relied on the publisher's description, I might not have listened to this carefully crafted and nuanced tale. Toibin's characters emerge from the small village as figures emerge from the mist, slowly taking shape until they are fully revealed. The narration matches the author's pace, rising and falling with the narrative. Well worth the time.
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