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
Within the top five
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
Her voice gives an Irish sound and intonation which lends meaning and humour to the dialogues and internal monologue
I don't want to spoil the story.
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
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.
a glorious listen read magnificently
no, but will
he is a master story teller and the narrator dies his work justice. Loved it.
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.
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!!!!!
Husband to a Bookworm
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.
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.
Yes I would listen again to hear the sensitive way Fiona Shaw narrated this book.
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.
Her wonderful reading, true local accents and a great sensitivity to the characters and all their complexities
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.
Fiona Shaw's reading of the story is good - she gives it a secure, steady tone.
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.
"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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