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The Master | [Colm Toibin]

The Master

In The Master, his brilliant and profoundly moving fifth novel, Colm Toibin tells the story of Henry James, a famous novelist born into one of America's intellectual first families two decades before the Civil War. James left his country to live in Paris, Rome, Venice, and London among privileged artists and writers.
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Publisher's Summary

In The Master, his brilliant and profoundly moving fifth novel, Colm Toibin tells the story of Henry James, a famous novelist born into one of America's intellectual first families two decades before the Civil War. James left his country to live in Paris, Rome, Venice, and London among privileged artists and writers.

In stunningly resonant prose, Toibin captures the loneliness and longing, the hope and despair of a man who never married, never resolved his sexual identity, and whose forays into intimacy inevitably failed him and those he tried to love. The emotional intensity of Toibin 's portrait of James is riveting. Time and again, James, a master of psychological subtlety in his fiction, proves blind to his own heart.

Toibin is a "great and humanizing writer" who describes complex relationships in "supple, beautifully modulated prose" (Washington Post Book World). In The Master, he has written his most ambitious novel, an extraordinarily inventive encounter with a character at the cusp of the modern age, elusive to his own friends and even family, yet astonishingly vivid and moving in these pages.

©2004 Colm Toibin; (P)2004 Blackstone Audiobooks

What the Critics Say

  • Audie Award Finalist, Literary Fiction, 2005
  • IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, 2006

"Perhaps the book’s greatest achievement—one of many—is the gentle understatement it employs to connect James’ personal uncertainties at mid-career to a broader shift in the literary current at the turn of the century. … The story’s greater energy lies in the linkage that Tóibín forges among James’s emotional and physical exile, the subjects of his novels, and certain key episodes in his past." (Boston Globe)
"The subtlety and empathy with which Toibin inhabits James's psyche and captures the fleeting emotional nuances of his world are beyond praise, and even the echoes of the master's style ring true." (Publishers Weekly)
"Even the reader who knows little about Henry James or his work can enjoy this marvelously intelligent and engaging novel, which presents not on a silver platter but in tender, opened hands a beautifully nuanced psychological portrait." (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.7 (193 )
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  •  
    John Sedona, AZ, United States 07-14-11
    John Sedona, AZ, United States 07-14-11 Member Since 2002
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    "Interesting for the Lovers of James' Fiction"

    Perhaps this might be called an 'organic novel' with the style reminiscent of the style of the subject of the novel. This is not a biography of Henry James, although it does have those important biographical events that Toibin feels contributes to the development of James as a man and as an author. There is a great deal of the James family history inserted into this novel, but for the James fan, R.W.B. Lewis' "The James: A Family Narrative" will be far more satisfying. For someone who has not read a lot of Henry James, Toibin's allusions to James' novels and short stories will probably be lost. This is hardly a page turner and best left to the Henry James fans to read at leisure some time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    PA Law 07-04-06
    PA Law 07-04-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Boring and pretentious"

    I have read some very tedious books but this one moves slower than molasses. Having studied many works by Henry James, I was expecting an interesting and absorbing read but all I got was a prolonged discourse that skirts James' repressed homosexuality and concentrates on his obvious disdain for the hypocrisy of English society in the nineteenth century. Does this take 13 hours to explain? It dwells painfully on the author's perceived inadequacies, particularly in drama, as well as his preoccupation with the death of his morbid sister and wanderlust of his father. The tone is flat and the book is completely overwritten. It is poorly contructed and confirms my growing belief that many books receiving or nominated for literary awards can be absolute rubbish. I wish I could get my money back!

    4 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wendy ny, NY, USA 02-27-07
    Wendy ny, NY, USA 02-27-07 Member Since 2006
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    "Homosexuality"

    I read this book over a few short days so I can say it kept my attention. The narrator was wonderful and the book well written and descriptive. However, I was surprised to see that the only recurring theme and aspect of James' life and work that seems to have been explored was his inner and very much closeted gay life. I am not sure where the author got all his information but a question that has sprung much conjecture over the years has been figured all out. When I did a bit of research it seems that there was no real answer to the question of James' sexuality as he wrote passionately to both sexes. Well okay, its his theory...fine; but, he is ignoring any other possibly meaningful events in this story in lieu of gay repartee in events about Oscar Wilde and whomever James happens to meet along the way. It weaves a web of people hinting and hissing about his sexuality wherever he goes, until one can't stand the paranoia and thinks..but didn't this man write as well as gad about with a bunch of nosy gossips? I also really object to the depiction of women as weak, evil, vain, hysterical, useless and unlovable. In my opinion I think this book should be explained a bit more in the description, I thought it was about the writer James, not an explanation of his sexuality.

    7 of 23 people found this review helpful
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