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Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín

Nora Webster - Colm Tóibín

bookshelves: lit-richer, britain-ireland, published-2014, wexford, period-piece, net-galley, e-book, summer-2014, bellybutton-mining, aga-saga, families, lifestyles-deathstyles, politics, newtome-author

Read from July 15 to 18, 2014

 




Description: It is the late 1960s in Ireland. Nora Webster is living in a small town, looking after her four children, trying to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. She is fiercely intelligent, at times difficult and impatient, at times kind, but she is trapped by her circumstances, and waiting for any chance which will lift her beyond them.

Colm Tóibín's Nora is a character as resonant as Anna Karenina or Madame Bovary and Nora Webster is a novel that illuminates our own lives in a way that is rare in literature. Its humanity and compassion forge an unforgettable reading experience.

Colm Tóibín was born in Enniscorthy in 1955. He is the author of seven other novels, including The Blackwater Lightship, The Master and The Testament of Mary, all three of which were nominated for the Booker Prize, and Brooklyn, which won the Costa Novel Award. He has also published two collections of stories and many works of non-fiction. He lives in Dublin.


Opening: 'You must be fed up of them. Will they never stop coming?' Tom O'Connor, her neighbour, stood at his front door and looked at her.
'I know,' she said.
'Just don't answer the door. That's what I'd do.'
Nora closed the garden gate.


A quiet and intense character study, beautifully written and utterly compelling as I sit in my 'Babette's Feast' of a rented cottage far from civilisation, with the Danish mist swirling in the twilight; close by, the swish and babble of small waves on the shore. However, not everyone will have the pleasure of being in such an evocative atmosphere when they crack this one open and, right there at that point, they will ask for more of a story than is offered here.

No need go further into the plot, there is enough of that in the description, yet I can tell you the atmosphere built up over even the smallest of encounters is deliciously unsettling, claustrophobic and brittle, and you will want to hug those two boys to your chest until they relax their pent up worries within the safety of encircling arms. Preposterous as it sounds in this Wexford slice of life on the tragic side of the track, there are some amusing parts where you find yourself smiling along with the schadenfreude and oneupmanship on display: no one here is unflawed, and that includes the titular persona.

By the end and against the back drop of the troubles there is real character growth in all the players involved, and some of these transitions leave their marks, which is the way of life; things have a way of working out. Three and a half reduced-price shop-display turntables, upped to four because I was thoroughly anxious for the wellbeing of the family.




Today, 18th July 2014, 'Nora Webster' is number thirty three on the listopia Man Booker Prize Eligible 2014 and doesn't look the strongest Irish contender. We shall see next week, 23rd July, just which make it onto the longlist.