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Brooklyn

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Colm Toibin's latest novel opens in Enniscorthy, a town in the south of Ireland, in the early 1950's. It tells the story of Eilis Lacey who lives with her widowed mother and older sister, Rose. Eilis is unable to find work and when a priest visiting from Brooklyn offers to arrange for her to travel there the family decide she must go. She is found accomodation in a boarding house run by an Irish woman and begins to work in a department store. Initially she is terribly homesick but gradually she builds a new life and falls in love with an Italian-American, Tony.

 

A family tragedy forces her to return to Ireland where new opportunities appear to have opened up for her and she has to decide whether or not to return to Brooklyn.

 

This novel is my best read of the year so far. The development of Eilis's character is masterful and although the book is not bogged down with period detail there are many thought provoking incidents highlighting issues of the time. Brooklyn is the first novel for a long time that has reduced me to tears and the tension in the final part of the book as the reader waits to see if Eilis will return to America is almost unbearable.

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I agree with Jen's assessment.

 

Colm Tóibín’s previous novels have centred around ordinary Irish folk, set in a gently melancholic situation, exploring relationships and emotions, steeped in subtle, understated beauty. All, that is, except The Master - a fictionalization of the life of Henry James - which was substantially different from the model. Some loved The Master, but I didn’t.

 

Anyway, Brooklyn is a welcome, wonderful return to the former style. We follow Eilis, a young woman from post-war Enniscorthy, as she decides whether her future lies in a stale, sterile Ireland or in a rough and ready New York. Tóibín paints brilliant portraits of a life in rural Ireland and the life of the Irish ex-pat community in Brooklyn. In both cases, this is a life constrained by religion, morality and nosy neighbours. Budding love is a dangerous game, played for high stakes - not least of which is some semblance of freedom and an escape from loneliness.

 

If there is a grand theme, it is the portability of love. Tóibín doesn’t believe in a perfect match - true love finding itself against all odds. No, he offers love as an emotion which can be created or suppressed, almost at will - where partners can be interchangeable, where daughters can be interchangeable. Yet for all the tawdriness, Tóibín still manages to portray love as urgent and worthwhile. It is a source of ultimate hope; at a personal level it mirrors the hope of a new society recovering after the effects and privations of a war. As relationships ebb and wane in Brooklyn, Tóibín takes the reader on an absolute rollercoaster of emotion - hope, fear, anger, joy. It’s all in the mix somewhere.

 

Although the language is clear and lucid, this is a complex work. There are many layers of social commentary; many layers of personal relationships - made all the more complex because none of the characters is a stereotype. Nobody is good or bad; nobody is wicked or blameless. There are shades of light and dark in everyone and in everything. This is shown particularly in the relationships between the women in the Brooklyn Boarding House as they will support one another just as easily as they will knife each other in the back. There was a feeling of authenticity; the characters were real people.

 

For my money, this is the most complex, most mature of Colm Tóibín’s novels. Every word was a joy to read, even when they stirred emotions that were far from joyous. And, at last, proof at long last that there is at least one gem on the 2009 Booker Longlist.

 

*****

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The only other book of Toibin's that I've read is The Master and I did rate that quite highly.

 

I was therefore surprised by the style of this novel in that I expected a more complex prose style in Brooklyn. This wasn't the case, and quite rightly so in my opinion, as it wouldn't have suited the narrative. Much of the novel is taken up by straightforward direct speech.

 

I felt engaged with Eilis and felt involved in the decisions she had to make. There is nothing simplistic in Toibin's characterisation of her and the men and women we come across in her life in Ireland and in New York nor is there thankfully any mawkishness about small town Irish life or hype about life in New York whether uptown or downtown.

 

Recommended.

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Colm Toibin’s latest novel Brooklyn, published in 2009, made the Man Booker 2009 longlist, but – inexplicably to many - missed out on the shortlist. It was therefore gratifying to hear a week ago that it had been awarded the Costa Book Awards 2009 Best Novel Prize.

 

Brooklyn is a gentle, lilting story of the coming of age of a young southern Irish girl in the 1950s. Eilis Lacey lives with her widowed mother and older sister Rose in Enniscorthy, a small town in south-east Ireland. Her brothers have all left home to find work in England. Rose has a good life, working by day in an office and playing golf in her free time. Glamorous and beautiful, she seems settled into her routine. Eilis, however, has not had such an easy time finding her feet. Despite excelling at her bookkeeping classes, she only manages to procure a part-time job at an exploitatively low pay with a sour woman, Miss Kelly, who runs an upmarket grocery.

 

One day, Rose and her mother inform Eilis that an old family friend, a priest who now lives in Brooklyn, is visiting. At the meeting it seems Eilis’s family have conspired to suggest a new life to her – a life across the ocean in Brooklyn.

 

Reluctantly, Eilis drifts along with the family decision and is transported to this land of promise where, after an initial period of homesickness, she gradually forges a happy existence for herself. But then, calamity strikes and Eilis’s foundations are rocked. She has to make important decisions about her future – decisions that sometimes seem to be pre-arranged rather than in her own hands.

 

In Brooklyn, Colm Toibin has managed to effortlessly capture the dreams, anxieties and aspirations of a young woman in the mid twentieth century. The way he enters the mindset of an inexperienced girl is captivating. The reader travels alongside Eilis as outside forces determind her future and she is propelled along. Toibin conveys perfectly the shyness and bewilderment that often overwhelm young women from a sheltered background venturing out on their own.

 

Coibin writes with a spare, unfussy prose that belies an understated charm and sharpness of acuity about people. Human foibles such as envy, irrationality and material aspiration are conveyed with scouring abrasion causing a frisson of delight. Here he is on the judgemental Miss Kelly, for example, summing up to devastating effect but with a deceptive simplicity her purse-lipped disapproval and fawning sycophancy:

 

‘As each customer came into the shop..., Eilis noticed that Miss Kelly had a different tone. Sometimes she said nothing at all, merely clenched her jaw and stood behind the counter in a pose that suggested deep disapproval of the customer’s presence in her shop and an impatience for that customer to go. For others she smiled drily and studied them with grim forbearance, taking the money as though offering them an immense favour. And then there were customers whom she greeted warmly and by name; many of these had accounts with her and thus no cash changed hands, but amounts were noted in a ledger with inquiries about health and comments on the weather...’

 

Toibin’s characters are not always so deliciously vile. He has always excelled at portraying ambiguous relationships such as the mother-daughter one – The Blackwater Lightship was a powerful example. This talent is in evidence again here: although one is never in doubt that Mrs Lacey loves her daughter, when Eilis returns to Ireland in the aftermath of tragedy the sly manipulation and selfish motives of self interest that colour some such relationships are potently displayed. Toibin doesn’t analyse or pass judgement, he merely conveys the telling details and leaves the reader to make their own mind up, the mark of an assured master.

 

This subtlety is in evidence everywhere. A few may misjudge Toibin as an untaxing writer because of an absence of challenging language, but, like fellow Irish writer William Trevor, his light touch masks a deadly perspicacity . The section on Eilis’s pangs of missing home is sickeningly vivid, Toibin nailing with shocking accuracy the way the all-consuming novel experiences of the new life lurch violently and recede to reveal waves of misery and memory. He is similarly perceptive on the complex emotions surrounding bereavement – the denial, anger and sorrow that fight in the weeks before acceptance.

 

There is also infinite wisdom between the lines. At one point early on in her new life in Brooklyn, despite pangs of terrible homesickness, Eilis has a dream suggesting an unconscious desire to escape her home in Ireland weighed down by guilt at her mother’s inevitable sorrow. So things are never as simple as they seem.

 

To sum up, Brooklyn is a strikingly wise story which enters right inside the mind of a young woman on the brink of adult life capturing the conflicting emotions, confusion and developing sensibilities of this tumultuous time. Beautiful.

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The only other book of Toibin's that I've read is The Master and I did rate that quite highly.

 

I was therefore surprised by the style of this novel in that I expected a more complex prose style in Brooklyn. This wasn't the case, and quite rightly so in my opinion, as it wouldn't have suited the narrative. Much of the novel is taken up by straightforward direct speech.

Most of Colm Toibin's novels have been written in very plain, accessible language. The Master was the odd one out in many ways - partly because of the language, partly because there was no plot, partly because it is his only novel that has involved real people. I think Toibin is at his best dealing with real emotions in ordinary characters in relatively mundane situations.

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This is by far the most moving and touching book I've read for a long time. The journey we take with Eilis to Brooklyn and back to Ireland allows us to share with her the experiences that deliver her back so changed and mature.

 

If there is a grand theme, it is the portability of love. Tóibín doesn’t believe in a perfect match - true love finding itself against all odds. No, he offers love as an emotion which can be created or suppressed, almost at will - where partners can be interchangeable, where daughters can be interchangeable.
This is a great observation MrHG, especially the part about daughters.

 

A wonderful read, this is going to be a hard act to follow.

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This is by far the most moving and touching book I've read for a long time. The journey we take with Eilis to Brooklyn and back to Ireland allows us to share with her the experiences that deliver her back so changed and mature.

 

This is a great observation MrHG, especially the part about daughters.

 

A wonderful read, this is going to be a hard act to follow.

 

The Portability of Love. Great phrase, great title. 21st Century readers of Literary Fiction are beginning to doubt the very word 'love' in the old Wuthering Heights sense of the word. It's a pretty volatile substance for us.

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I read this a month or so ago and enjoyed it. It opened up Irish culture to me and I bought it for a friend of mine to read who also liked it.

 

A good read but from my perspective nothing terribly outstanding.

 

 

Phoebus

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I thought the understated nature of it was part of its charm, Phoebus. I know what you mean in that the prose is ostensibly very straightforward with no literary fireworks and nothing very extraordinary - no Amis-like wordplay or caustic wit, no McGregor-esque poetry - but I've learnt over the years that writing what looks like simple prose is actually quite difficult. I think the likes of Toibin, Trevor and a few others manage it extremely well, making it look effortless.

I find I like to vary my reading diet - some lucid, calm, faultlessly written 'simple prosed' books like this and some with more bite - sharpness, wit, wordplay, experimental styles, ornate or lyrical or poetic prose, etc.

As long as each is done beautifully, I love the contrast between the different styles.

What jars is reading an author who aspires to accomplish something but doesn't quite make it - or one whose writing is simple but dully, uninspiringly so.

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I wish I'd felt the same as Jen and leyla, but I'm afraid my feelings are more in line with those of Phoebus.

Enjoyable, and I can see that leyla's points about the book's understated nature are right, but I think I need some fireworks!

 

I also think I'd read a bit too much about this book, and was expecting something different. I'm sure the blurb says that Eilis has to choose between duty and "one great love", and I certainly didn't feel that

either Tony or Jim could be described as a great love.

 

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I also think I'd read a bit too much about this book, and was expecting something different.
That's always a risk with such a widely reviewed and recommended novel and can certainly be a hinderance. If something I read suggests that I'd enjoy a particular book, I'll add it to my Amazon wishlist for future reference and then stop reading any more about it until I'm ready to shop.

 

I liked the slow pace of the book, I felt it was thought provoking but I can see that it might be too pedestrian for some.

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Maybe this one should have won the Booker rather than the large baggy monster that was so over-hyped. Toibin, like Trevor (why do so many good contemporary novelists start with a 'T'?) is a subtle writer who knows how to tell a good story from the inside. Eilis the heroine reminded me very much of Trevor's Felicia and is not a million miles away from Brian Moore's Judith Hearne and his Eileen Hughes. The poor Irish lass, as ever, adrift in an alien environment, exploited and humiliated as usual has become almost an Irish stereotype. But sometimes cliche situations work because of the way they are treated by the author. We understand and sympathise with the lonely passions of these sad case Irish heroines. I found myself rationing my reading in order to savour Eilis's dilemma. No, it's not a love story so much as an examination of cultural conflict. And unlike Judith and Felicia, Eilis is active rather than passive. Once she grows up in America she makes things happen and is, like all tragic protagonists, in effect the author of her own doom. There is an open question at the end: can she return to her American lover with the same purity of heart that she had shown earlier? I tend to like these open-ended stories; they return you to life with all its ambiguities.

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Restored Post

 

20th April 2012, 10:42 PM

Binker

 

I just finished this book earlier this week and loved it. I've been frantically busy and haven't had time to write up my thoughts, which I find frustrating. One of the things I enjoy about BGO is that writing a review solidifies the book in my (sieve-like) memory and gives me a place to go back to if I'm trying to remember what I thought of the book.

 

I liked the structure, characters, and themes of this book very much.

 

It seemed to me we watched Eilis Lacey go on not only travel from Ireland to Brooklyn, but also from girlhood to adulthood. The book is divided into 4 parts and 2 of them involve a journey and all 4 involve movements from one stage of maturity to the next. Also, one of the key relationships (with Tony) begins almost exactly half-way through the book. I like books that are that carefully plotted and structured and appreciate the effort it takes to accomplish it seamlessly.

 

I mostly liked Eilis. She was incredibly observant and understood without saying it what was going on with the people around her. It was such a striking characteristic that when it went missing, I knew she was in deep emotional turmoil before even she realized that it was terrible homesickness. I also think that Eilis kept too many things secret and although some of that is what enabled her to take this journey and keep on it (not telling her family about the terrible trip to the U.S. and not telling them about her terrible homesickness once she got there), it also came close to getting her in a lot of trouble.

 

 

By which I mean keeping her marriage a secret when she went back to Ireland.

I enjoyed Father Flood a great deal. He is such a key person for her--he arranges for her to come from Ireland, takes charge when she gets so homesick, and is helpful at other emotionally difficult times as well. In fact, I think of the time before he came into her life as "antediluvian." I bet Toibin did that on purpose.

 

But the character I just loved was Tony. I like how he was funny and sweet and particularly loved how emotional he could get with her. The scene where they stood and sobbed out of her boarding house was very touching.

 

At first, I found the last part of the book frustrating, but then I realized that that was the time where Eilis really grew up.

 

 

I think her rather significant flirtation with Jim Farrell was when she really thought about going backwards in time and place to what her life would have been had she never left. But she could never really go back to being that person again and luckily, she realized that fact in time. I liked and felt sorry for Jim Farrell once I realized why he'd acted as he did when they first met, but I can't deny that I was desperately hoping that she would return to Tony and her new and different self and hugely relieved when she did.

I could go on and on. I may come back and add to this review. But I loved this book.

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Restored Post

 

27th April 2012, 02:58 PM

nonsuch

 

Good review; great book. One of the very few to treasure in re-read.

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I have now taught Brooklyn as a set text to two consecutive lots of French students. It has worked well both times: the students involved are first-year post-baccalauréat (17 or 18), and some of them had never read a complete novel in English before. So Brooklyn proved reasonably accessible for the great majority of them (and, inevitably, rather too easy for the brightest ones).

This means I now know the novel pretty well inside out - but still maintain it is a deceptively simple story, with, to quote John Lanchester, in The Guardian, "vast depths of emotional and psychological complexity". The scene towards the end where

Eilis says goodbye to her mother

is one I still find remarkably, almost unbearably, moving.

 

But now I have my own version of Eilis's dilemma: the blurb states that Eilis is faced with "a devastating choice between duty and one great love".

But does the dilemma consist of

the choice of the duty of staying with her widowed mother, or else of going back to Tony, he being the "one great love" - or, conversely, is the duty to be understood as the moral obligation to go back to Tony? In which case Jim becomes the "one great love". I'm pretty sure the blurb-writer, who possibly only skimmed the novel, thought of Tony as "one great love"...

 

More generally, Eilis's relationship with Tony is never clearly portrayed as a passionate one. There is never any equivalent observation to "she noticed the black hair on [Jim's] arms and the whiteness of his skin". Tony is her first boyfriend, but he is also her first close friend (she is clearly closer to him than she was to her female friend, Nancy Byrne, back in Enniscorthy). Somehow, Tony's role as friend seems to detract from his sexual allure.

 

Two more observations:

• I will never be able to fix in my mind the fact that Tony has "blond hair and clear blue eyes." (I'm pretty sure this is due to the unavoidable influence of the memories of the darker-than-dark Tonys in Saturday Night Fever and the movie-version of West Side Story.)

 

• Wouldn't Brooklyn make a great film? And hasn't this occurred to anybody else?

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I might be the only one here who didn't like the book. It was boring, seemed superficial and had a big touch of "beach read/chick lit". Not my type of novel.

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I have just finished Brooklyn, and I really loved it. I had a very emotional response to the last section, and I probably read t too fast because I was dying to find out what she would do! I thought it was a very thoughtful, reflective exploration of a quiet life.

 

I teach James Joyce's short story Eveline (from Dubliners) and in many ways it reminded me of that story. The prose style was eerily reminiscent of Joyce. I think there's something understated and simple about the style which some readers might not like.

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Just finished reading Brooklyn, found that once I started I just kept on reading, I really enjoyed it.  Eilis` relationship with Tony and her subsequent secret marriage to him seemed as if it just rolled on as inevitable, I never felt that there was any grand passion in it, on his side maybe, but Eilis appeared more surprised by it all.  She was definitely delighted to be with him and was not at all critical but didn`t seem to `moon`over him like you might expect from a young woman with her first boyfriend.

 

When she went back to Ireland to stay for a while with her mother and was unable to tell her mother she was married I found myself getting tense, especially when Jim Farrell was back on the scene and obviously interested, I just hoped that she wasn`t going to be fickle and realize that maybe she didn`t really love Tony and would rather stay in Ireland.  The tension she, (or the tension I felt on her behalf) felt came through in the writing as if she found herself backed into a corner, not knowing how to solve her dilemma.

 

I was really relieved when she re-booked her return passage.  I`m amazed at how I was so caught up in the story line.

 

The writing was great and I`m surprised that I haven`t read anything by Mr.Toibin until now.

Edited by momac

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This was one of those 'why on earth haven't I read this author before?' books.  I only picked it up by chance in the library and I loved it, all of it, especially Colm Toibin's wonderful writing which is a masterclass in 'deceptively simple'.  I was really involved with Eilis as a charecter, she was so human, so vulnerable and yet so strong.  Masses of wonderful things about this book, the incredibly moving descriptions of her homesickness, Miss Kelly, life in the boarding house, in fact I can't think of one thing I didn't like.

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I wasn't nearly as enamored by this book as many others, although I'm not sure it is the books fault. But having just read Wuthering Heights with its truly glorious and stunning prose style(even though I didn't enjoy the story itself much at all) the writing here seemed clunky, plodding and simplistic. And then there is the fact that I'd seen the movie, which was pretty faithful to the book, and so there wasn't much dramatic tension for me. I read it because I expected the book to shed more light on Brooklyn and Enniscorthy, which it didn't really accomplish, and on Eilis's character and decisions. And I did understand her actions a little better, but as for her character I felt that the luminous performance of Saorise Ronan was actually more evocative than Toibin's writing of it. But it was undoubtedly a worthy effort, and I appreciated the lack of psycho- and melo-drama. I'm sure I'd have been more caught up in the story if I'd read it before I saw the movie.

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But now I have my own version of Eilis's dilemma: the blurb states that Eilis is faced with "a devastating choice between duty and one great love".

But does the dilemma consist of

the choice of the duty of staying with her widowed mother, or else of going back to Tony, he being the "one great love" - or, conversely, is the duty to be understood as the moral obligation to go back to Tony? In which case Jim becomes the "one great love". I'm pretty sure the blurb-writer, who possibly only skimmed the novel, thought of Tony as "one great love"...

 

More generally, Eilis's relationship with Tony is never clearly portrayed as a passionate one. There is never any equivalent observation to "she noticed the black hair on [Jim's] arms and the whiteness of his skin". Tony is her first boyfriend, but he is also her first close friend (she is clearly closer to him than she was to her female friend, Nancy Byrne, back in Enniscorthy). Somehow, Tony's role as friend seems to detract from his sexual allure.

 

Two more observations:

• I will never be able to fix in my mind the fact that Tony has "blond hair and clear blue eyes." (I'm pretty sure this is due to the unavoidable influence of the memories of the darker-than-dark Tonys in Saturday Night Fever and the movie-version of West Side Story.)

 

• Wouldn't Brooklyn make a great film? And hasn't this occurred to anybody else?

 

some very good observations and looking back 3 years since the post, one excellent one ;)

 

That first point about the dilemma is an excellent point and something I hadn't thought about when I was reading. For me between Eilis and Tony, there didn't seem to be the romance and passion in the relationship with Tony, it seems to be caught up in that this is the first boyfriend as you said and that is the biggest determinant I think on her relationship with him and the continuation to it

 

Just finished reading Brooklyn, found that once I started I just kept on reading, I really enjoyed it.  Eilis` relationship with Tony and her subsequent secret marriage to him seemed as if it just rolled on as inevitable, I never felt that there was any grand passion in it, on his side maybe, but Eilis appeared more surprised by it all.  She was definitely delighted to be with him and was not at all critical but didn`t seem to `moon`over him like you might expect from a young woman with her first boyfriend.

 

When she went back to Ireland to stay for a while with her mother and was unable to tell her mother she was married I found myself getting tense, especially when Jim Farrell was back on the scene and obviously interested, I just hoped that she wasn`t going to be fickle and realize that maybe she didn`t really love Tony and would rather stay in Ireland.  The tension she, (or the tension I felt on her behalf) felt came through in the writing as if she found herself backed into a corner, not knowing how to solve her dilemma.

 

 

 

My thinking while reading it was that she was going to decide to stay in Ireland. I was surprised when she did the opposite

 

 

I read it because I expected the book to shed more light on Brooklyn and Enniscorthy, which it didn't really accomplish

oh, i was in enniscorthy 2 years ago, not really that much to it as a place ;) atleast not from what I saw of it anyway (it was a friend's stag). Actually it did seem quite a nice place to visit if it wasn't for a stag.

 

Overall I liked this book, good character development on the part of Eilis and the other supporting characters were interesting too. I particularly liked Fr. Flood, he seemed a good caring man with the interests of his parishioners at heart. For me, my favourite part was the relationship between Fr. Flood and Eilis. For me, that is what encapsulates the novel.

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I was talking to a friend from work about the film version. It seems to me in the film:

 

that eilis' big love in the film was the guy in new York, while as discussed above, it seems the other way in the book.



 

The friend from work said that when she saw it on TV, she had to turn it off before the end as she thought eilis staying in ireland would be such a sad ending to the film, and felt that was the way the film was going to go.

 

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I've just re-read this for my book group and it is one of those books that is every bit as good on the second time round. If you haven't already read it I urge you to do so.

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      Nora Webster, mother of four, Enniscorthy, late 1960s. Recently widowed.

      This is a story of a phoenix rising from the ashes. Initially caught up in grief and devastation as her husband Maurice dies, leaving her in a financial mess and social isolation, Nora gradually begins to assert her own identity.

      There are many little sub-plots. The plight of the boys, sent to stay with their aunt during Maurice’s illness, returning with stammers and nightmares. The girls leaving home to set up careers or engage in politics. Nora’s position with Gibney’s, a large firm run by the husband of a school friend. Most of these stories just spiral off into nothing, but chapter by chapter, we see the emergence of a confident and independent Nora. As a widow, she no longer had to ask permission to do anything. She is not subject to the restrictions of the young and single; she is not bound by marital duty. In 1960s Ireland, Nora gradually begins to see that she has a rare and favoured status.

      The novel begins slowly and it is hard to feel involved with a large and somewhat dreary cast. The hooks and intrigues that are used to draw the reader in are left frustratingly unanswered. But piece by piece, the novel builds a momentum that is as much societal as it is personal. As Nora changes, so too do those around her. Each of her four children is able to make choices that would have been unimaginable a generation earlier. We start to see the introduction of consumer goods, quiz nights, fancy clothes. There’s even a brief flirtation with the concept of homosexuality as a lifestyle rather than a sin.

      Colm Toibin writes in a plain style; he doesn’t hide important detail in ornate and obscure language. Yet despite the plain speak, the scenes are constructed immaculately. They are vivid, real and fully immerse the reader.

      Toibin’s previous novels have often ended almost in mid sentence. It’s as though he gets to a point and just decides he has said enough and stops writing. This novel is of that type; there is no ending as such, just a feeling that Toibin is done.

      Some readers may find Nora Webster a bit drab and dull; actually it isn’t. For this reader, at least, it is a novel of transition and hope. Going hand in hand, there is the emergence of the individual, and the emergence of a nation state.   ****0
    • By Starry
      Cached thread from google
       
      agnesd 21st August 2006 01:25 AM
       
      The Master/Colm Toibin
       
      Just Started The Master by Colm Toibin. Very good so far. Novel about Henry James. Can someone puleeezze tell me how to pronounce his name. I know its Gaelic but can't figure out Toibin.
       
       
       
      Starry 21st August 2006 09:54 AM
       
      As far as I know it is pronounced Toy-bin.
       
      I have this book on my TBR pile, so do let us know what you thought of it, might make me push it to the top
       
       
       
      Mungus 21st August 2006 11:35 AM
       
      And Colm is pronounced as you might guess, or listen to the link on this page for a nice Irish accent.
       
       
       
      megustaleer 21st August 2006 12:57 PM
       
      A most interesting effect can be achieved by clicking on the 'listen' button for a second, and third name without clicking on the 'stop' button first!!
       
       
      gerbooks 22nd August 2006 07:26 PM
       
      Hi, the correct pronounciation for Toibin is Toe-Been. He is Irish and so am I so I'm pretty sure.
       
       
      dumpling 23rd August 2006 11:51 AM
       
      It's been a while since I read The Master, so I don't remember much of why I liked it, just that I did. Very much so. I do recall that it made me feel as though I had a great insight into the mind of Henry James, though naturally based entirely on Toibin's speculations. And the book also made me want to read some Henry James, even though I've never been a fan of his since attempting The Turn of the Screw. (I should add that I still haven't read any Henry James, but I intend to!)
       
       
      agnesd 24th August 2006 11:41 PM
       
      Just Finished
       
      I loved The Master. Just finished it. It's an odd book. It's like the Victorian, dramatic version of the Seinfeld show, "A Book about Nothing". They really had nothing to do but make mountains out of molehills. It was an interesting observation of a specific segment of society. I thought the segment about the Civil War especially interesting from the point of view of a family with boys in the war. I know that it was based on many factual accounts of James's life, but there is still the element of the authors interpretation. All in all it was well worth reading. I highly recommend it.
       
       
       
      Brightphoebus 30th August 2006 08:43 AM
       
      The Master
       
      I read 'The Master ' eighteen months ago and it has remained one of those 'stand out' reads for me. It is written with grace and compassion, tenderness and insight. Has anyone read Toibin's "The Heather Blazing"? Although set in Ireland 100 years or so later the quality of his writing had the same effect on me, that 'hairs raising on the back of the neck feeling' where you feel you have connected mysteriously to another person and through them to the whole of humanity.
      This is my first post and I'm still trying to get the hang of how the site works but I'm thrilled to have come across it and will keep trying.
       
       
       
      agnesd 30th August 2006 01:43 PM
       
      Great Review
       
      I completely agree with your analysis of The Master. I just love book discussions. Everyone brings unique language in their interpretations. I will have to read The Heather Blazing Have you read Arthur and George? I think you would enjoy JuLian Barnes's writing style.
       
       
      dumpling 30th August 2006 03:23 PM
       
      This may need a new thread, but I enjoyed Arthur and George even more than I did The Master.
       
       
      megustaleer 30th August 2006 03:53 PM
       
      Brightphoebus, welcome to BGO. You'll soon get the hang of the place, and if there's anything you need to know just ask, we are quite a helpful bunch.
       
      Perhaps you could post a bit about yourself and your taste in books on the introductions thread.
       
      dumpling, do add your comments to the Arthur and George thread.
       
       
      Brightphoebus 31st August 2006 08:18 AM
       
      Thanks, Agnesd and Dumpling, I'll definitely try Arthur and George - I think I didn't get on with a much earlier Julian Barnes which put me off trying it, but I will now.
       
       
      yorkshire rose 31st August 2006 07:57 PM
       
      I loved The Master, it really made me want to read Henry James. It was just so clever. It was tender and delicate and a bit like a good radio play you put part of yourself in it as you read it. I liked Arthur and George too, although I prefered 'History of the world in 10 1/2 Chapters' and I love 'Pedant in the Julain Barnes' collection of food columns from the Saturday Guardian
       
       
      Grammath 1st September 2006 11:55 AM
       
       
      Blimey, it must be a work of staggering genius in that case! I, for one, would take a great deal of persuading to ever pick up a Henry James novel again.
    • By jfp
      I'm a fan of both of Toibin's Booker-shortlisted novels, The Blackwater Lightship and The Master, two accomplished works very different from each other, but this earlier novel (Toibin's third) disappointed me.
       
      The Story Of The Night is the first-person narrative of Richard, the only child of an Argentinian father and an English mother, growing up in Argentina and coming to terms with:
      a) conflicting cultural loyalties chaotically epitomised by the Falklands War;
      being gay;
      c) the appearance of AIDS;
      d) his complex involvement with a mysterious American couple, Donald and Susan, interested in US contributions to possible regime change in Argentina.
       
      Further complications stem from Richard's:
      a) being infatuated with an Argentinian called Jorge, who is straight and ends up having a secret affair with Susan, who also tries to seduce Richard;
      subsequently getting seriously involved with Jorge's brother, Pablo...
       
      I'm not sure why, but it just didn't add up plausibly for me. To be considered an apprentice work, possibly.
       
      **000
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