Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín

The author’s name, according to the publisher, is pronounced
COLL-um Toe-BEAN.  If only we can remember that.

This is my second reading of Colm Tóibín and I don’t intend to repeat
his name and tricky diacritical marks any more on this post.  This is the
second book I’ve read by him, the first being Brooklyn.   In the meantime,

all of you have seen the movie and I don’t intend to.  I like to remember books just
as they are/were to me.  As I recall, that was a “quiet” kind of read, but
enjoyable—and more memorable the longer time passed after finishing it!

Nora Webster is the story of a woman whose husband has died and is left with
four children to raise–two older girls and two younger boys.  I wish Mr. T had
given us the ages right from the get-go but he didn’t and I coped.

This was also a quiet kind of read, but after awhile, quite hard to put down–easy
to pick up while cooking supper, etc. We wonder about Nora.

At times I thought she was distant from her children, but upon reflection, realized
that it’s a slippery slope parents traverse–ok, travel–in communicating with their
children.  When to step in–when there might be trouble brewing within a child—
and when to step back and not be smothering.  And they all were in varying states
of grief.

Nora is not alone, but is lonely in this quest to somehow survive the days/years
after her husband’s death.  She has two sisters, an Aunt Josie and all of the
churchgoing, long-known townspeople who knew her husband.  It’s amazing that
she has the strength or the time to escape them all for a moment of self reflection
on how she feels.

The unsettling Ireland north/south news events are woven into the story and
sides taken in the family–young and old. And a Catholic/Protestant thread is
never far.  In the end, it is music–an awakened singing voice that Nora had
discarded years ago–that paves a way for her to get back on an even keel.

There are flashes of unexpected humor throughout.  Why am I surprised?  This is
a thoroughly Irish writer—wit is ingrained. He is a writer to follow and I will.

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4 Responses to Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín

  1. FictionFan says:

    I loved this one – possibly my favourite of Toibin’s books, at least the ones I’ve rea so far. I agree with you about Brooklyn – it’s effect on me continues to grow long after the reading of it. The film is wonderful too, though, and didn’t destroy my feelings about the book, happily.

    • booksandbuttons says:

      Hi Fiction Fan–Yes, I know you’re a follower of Toibin–in fact I might
      have started Brooklyn from one of your blogs. I find it interesting that he
      writes compellingly–yet he keeps a distance between the reader and the heroine.
      How does he do that? Same with Brooklyn. I call it “quiet” but maybe it’s “cold”.

  2. Stefanie says:

    He’s such a good writer. I really loved The Master. I have read a nonfiction book of his about the poet Elizabeth Bishop and it too was most excellent.

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