NPR logo
Book Review: 'Nora Webster' by Colm Toibin
  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/359403490/359403491" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Book Review: 'Nora Webster' by Colm Toibin

Book Reviews

Book Review: 'Nora Webster' by Colm Toibin

Book Review: 'Nora Webster' by Colm Toibin
  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/359403490/359403491" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Alan Cheuse reviews a new novel by Colm Toibin, Nora Webster.

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.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.