Book Review: 'Nora Webster' by Colm Toibin
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And now to a new novel from a widely acclaimed writer - Colm Toibin. His latest, titled "Nora Webster," has a simple enough set-up - widow living in Ireland copes with and then overcomes her grief. But the power of this book is anything but simple, according to our reviewer Alan Cheuse.
ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: With the weight of her bereavement bearing down on her, Nora Webster stands tall. This mother of four is still drenched in sorrow at the passing of her husband, but she admits that she's exasperated with the sympathetic visits from neighbors and friends. Clearly, Nora's stronger than she understands. She surveys the dilapidated condition of the family's summer cottage and concocts a plan to sell it as soon as possible. She needs to focus on her sons, both of them still going and one with a bad stammer.
With deftness and delicacy, Toibin portrays this widow wrestling with her new condition. The ordinariness of the domestic details might put some potential readers in mind of our own Alice McDermott and her fiction about family life. It might also carry some people back to the reading of James Joyce and his Dubliners - modern Irish folks struggling to free themselves from mostly unhappy situations.
Certainly, happiness seems far off for Nora Webster, but from the start, she does have an eye for how her world might change somehow for the better. With help from her circle of sympathetic friends, Nora finds employment. Even the ritual act of buying a new dress or getting a new hairdo in the hopes of changing her state of being seems fresh and transformative in Toibin's hands, as does really the entirety of his lovely new rendering of an old story - a story we've read before, but in good hands, a story we never tire of.
BLOCK: That's Alan Cheuse reviewing the novel "Nora Webster" by Colm Toibin.
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