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Publisher's Summary

The downloadable, digital audiobook edition of Colm Tóibín's new novel, read by Fiona Shaw.

It is the 1960s and Nora Webster is living with her two young sons in a small town on the east coast of Ireland. The love of her life, Maurice, has just died. Nora must learn how to forge a new life for herself, how to give her sons a future as she tries to hold onto the past. And, as Nora returns to memories of the happiness of her early marriage something more painful begins to intrude: memories of her own mother and what brought about the terrifying distance between them.

©2014 Colm Tóibín (P)2014 Penguin Books Limited

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Mediocre story of an Irish widow

I found the story unengaging with little to recommend it other than the decent narrator.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Slow moving and tedious

I had to force myself twice to go back to this book and continue listening. The details of Nora Webster's life were so boringly ordinary, I couldn't imagine why the author had thought it a story worth writing in the first place.

The narrator was dreadful - especially in the men's characters. Her pitch was irritating, her tone inappropriate to the content of the speech and her stress quite unnatural.

I only bought this book as I had enjoyed Brooklyn so much, but I soon regretted it. Even my own life is more interesting than Nora Webster's and that is not saying much.

Recommend for those who get a special kick out of watching paint dry

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 01-13-15

Unexpected pleasure

Any additional comments?

I don't remember quite why I chose this title, but I am so pleased to have listened to it. The reading is atmospheric and the writing a precise and well executed study of a family, and in particular a mother reconstructing their world after the death of the father.
There are touching moments and some humour, but most of all there is the hum-drum of life made fascinating by wonderful writing and a perceptive mind.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • penelopepurple
  • 01-11-15

I didn't want this book to end!

Where does Nora Webster rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Within the top five

What other book might you compare Nora Webster to, and why?

A little like Jane Austen in that it deals with social relations, the influence of people on each other and tracks changes in the heroine

What does Fiona Shaw bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Her voice gives an Irish sound and intonation which lends meaning and humour to the dialogues and internal monologue

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

I don't want to spoil the story.

Any additional comments?

This is a moving account of a widow beginning life on her own after the death of her husband. Nora is a beautifully drawn character, feisty and dignified. The story is a wonderful depiction of life in a small community where people are kind and interfering in equal measure. You would think it would be sad, but I found it uplifting and gently humorous

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Marilyn
  • 05-02-15

Mindnumbingly Boring

I'm forced to give this review one star for overall, as I can't submit without doing so.
If there is an award for the dullest novel in existence, then this is the winner.
The 'narative' lurches from each mundane experience to yet another.
I'm annoyed with myself for wasting so many hours listening to this, waiting for something, or some character, to rescue me from the sheer boredom!
The only saving grace, is the poor narrator, who delivered a fine performance, despite this interminable 'tosh'.
I need a refund!!!!!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Ross Bower
  • 04-18-15

COLM TOIBIN

I have read and downloaded all of these author's stories and up until now have loved them. However this particular story is so uneventful, so boring, so deadly dull I stopped listening to it about three-quarters of the way through. Perhaps something of interest did happen at the end, but I simply did not have the endurance to continue. Nora, the main character in the book, was so lacking in personality and proactivity I could find no interest at all in her or the story of her life. I found myself wondering if she had any kind of assertive personality when her husband was alive as she obviously hid behind the kudos of his professional persona but suspect she was as inert then as she was throughout her life! Unfortunately I suspect it will put a lot of listeners/readers off Colm Toibin which is a pity because his other works are exceptionally good.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Harry Mills
  • 02-21-15

Brilliant

If you could sum up Nora Webster in three words, what would they be?

a glorious listen read magnificently

Have you listened to any of Fiona Shaw’s other performances? How does this one compare?

no, but will

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

yes

Any additional comments?

he is a master story teller and the narrator dies his work justice. Loved it.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Cian
  • 01-22-15

Beautifully simplistic writing style and prose.

This is my first book by this author and it will not be the last. I felt the narrator did a wonderful job and really aided the listening with her different voices for characters, emphasis on narrative.
Colm Toibin’s writing is beautiful and simplistic taking the reader into the story so that you feel you are part of it and observing it up close and personal.
The book was set in the late 1960’s in Toibin’s own home town of Enniscorthy. The Ireland presented then was very different to modern times.
Nora has lost her husband Maurice who died young of heart disease. Maurice had a history of involvement with Fianna Fail politics and the Northern Ireland ‘troubles’ feature as a backdrop to the novel with Nora’s daughter taking part in protests in Dublin.
Maurice was presented as a well respected teacher and intellectual.
Nora is a highly intelligent woman and as such she sees the world differently and reacts somewhat differently to situations. She felt that she never loved her own mother who was too controlling and interfering in her life so she seeks to allow her children to grieve and find their own way without her interference. Nora is very reflective and measured in her life and in the way she thinks acts and speaks. This leads to many thinking of her and labelling her as haughty and ‘on her high horse’ as Sr Thomas (the local Catholic Nun) put it. Sr Thomas I think matches her intellect and supports her during the story in many ways. Her sisters knowing her intellect, are at times fearful of her while others label her as ‘full of herself’
It must have been difficult for such a highly intelligent woman who could analyse and see so much more in what was going on around her to stay silent and leave the speech to others. She was subservient to her husband as seen when they went to listen to the theologian speak and Nora nudged her husband to speak against the theory being proffered but he would not so Nora could not either.
Nora keeps her own counsel and is not a gossip She kept a secret about her employers wife Peggy Gibney which she could have spoken of and Peggy thanked her for that. I found it so funny when Peggy describes how she gets her own way in her household by ‘shutting down the kitchen’. It works quickly as hunger was a very good way of bringing conflicts to a speedy resolution.
Nora did not rush into action despite the event presented to her and she was not guided by emotion. When her daughter arrived home at 4am she thought about rushing down to find out what had happened. However she reflected and decided to wait until morning. This was much more measured and effective and probably avoided an argument.
Nora gradually starts changing and realising that she does not have to answer to anyone and starts making her own choices some of them quite risqué like joining the Union. She takes an interest in music and singing and this leads her in differing directions also.
It is evident as the novel progresses that the changes in Nora makes her a more assertive person, enabling her to choose for herself. Her children grow and change and she adapts to that.
She has been labelled as an ‘odd’ ‘difficult’ person and she is in lots of ways a loner seeking her own company whenever she can. She has a good strong family around her and they support and care for her despite her protestations at times.
I thought this was one of the best books I have ever read and it will stay with me for a long time. I can see it is not for everyone but I would highly recommend it.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Sara
  • 04-16-15

shouldn't have persevered

I've never read a Colm Tobin book before so thought I'd try this. I don't know if it was the narrator or the story but it really wasn't my cuppa cha. the main character had no backbone and was too concerned about what people thought and I kept waiting for something to happen. unless I missed something , she only touched on her relationship with her mother towards the end of the story so I don't understand if that was supposed to be a big part if the storyline as per the info on what the story was about. as for the narrator, the way she spoke some of the parts were very off-putting, and that's coming from an Irish woman listening to an Irish woman. I won't be listening to any more of his stories anyway, following this one.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • markj
  • 03-10-15

I kept waiting for something to happen!

What does Fiona Shaw bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Fiona Shaw's reading of the story is good - she gives it a secure, steady tone.

Any additional comments?

As an observation of a woman struck with the death of her husband, it's a beautifully drawn piece, but I kept expecting an event of significance to occur - which it didn't. That's probably truer to 'real life' but it leaves me feeling a bit empty.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Anna
  • 02-07-15

Wonderful performance by Fiona Shaw

Would you listen to Nora Webster again? Why?

Yes I would listen again to hear the sensitive way Fiona Shaw narrated this book.

Would you recommend Nora Webster to your friends? Why or why not?

It was a slow starting book and initially I took time to be drawn into the characters. However the unfolding of the story and the way it was told became engrossing.

What does Fiona Shaw bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Her wonderful reading, true local accents and a great sensitivity to the characters and all their complexities

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I came to love the characters and feel both great sorrow and a sense of hope for them. Initially I did not like many of the characters.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Veronica
  • 01-11-18

The first years of widowhood

I kept expecting something to happen but the only things that happen are the slow changes in Nora as she copes with the loss of her husband. We notice subtle changes as we follow her in her daily life, while also learning things about the past, first centered on Maurice, then more on her own youth.
The Irish couleur locale is very strong, with the 1970's troubles, an evening at a pub, a boarding-school run by RC brothers, etc., to the point that sometimes I felt that Nora was a pretext for a sociological study.
The multi-voiced performance with different Irish accents is remarkable.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Juliet De Andreis
  • 04-10-18

Beautiful story of lost and recovery

A masterful writer - there is a restraint and a simplicity that is rare and powerful.

Fiona Shaw is my favourite all time narrator. I wish every Irish story were read by her.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • christine
  • 04-05-17

A woman lost and found

What did you like most about Nora Webster?

This novel deals with the helplessness that many women feel with the loss of a partner. I enjoyed the main character's honesty.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Paddington
  • 04-11-16

Enjoyable Irish tale

I enjoyed this step back in time story set back in about the early 1960's from the sound of it. They used gramophones, not everyone had s phone on at home. The story was centred around the early death of Nora's husband and it seemed to me people did her favours because they respected the dead husband, and she lived in his shadow not in her own right. The story was a bit slow but eventually she seemed to develop confidence and strength in herself.