Nora Webster by Colm Toibin, review by Sarah Bagby
Colm Tóibín is the author of seven novels, including The Master, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Brooklyn, winner of the Costa Book Award; and two story collections. Twice shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Tóibín lives in Dublin and New York.
Tóibín’s latest novel, Nora Webster, displays a singular vision into the interior lives of ordinary people. Like other Tóibín novels, this one is set in a small Irish town in the middle of the 20th century, a time and place he is intimately familiar with from his own childhood.
Nora Webster quietly grieves when her beloved husband, Maurice, dies. Now a single mother of four with limited means, Nora takes a job in a family business and sells the vacation cottage. She discovers a passion for music, and, awkwardly at first, steps into the world she thought she left behind when she became a wife and mother.
Nora’s sisters keep a watchful eye on her and her children, even taking an active role in parenting-- without being asked-- in order to be supportive and do what they think is best. The tension between interior life and meeting the challenges of the external world builds with every page and each seemingly innocent risk Nora takes in order to overcome her deep sorrow and find solace.
Tóibín’s brilliant character study captures every detail and nuance of a life in transition. Nora Webster is unforgettable.
Sarah Bagby's review first appeared on KMUW, 89.1. To listen to her review, click HERE.