Friday, February 6, 2015

Nora Webster by Colm Toibin

Nora Webster by Colm Toibin is an unusual novel of development. The protagonist is not a young woman who changes by venturing into the wider world but rather grows emotionally while remaining in her small Irish community. In the late 1960s, Nora Webster, a woman in her forties, is widowed when her husband dies of heart disease. She is the mother of four children; two adult daughters and two adolescent sons. Her reaction to her husband’s death is to withdraw from society, annoyed by the seemingly endless condolences offered by friends and neighbors. The book is a slow-moving but beautifully written description of a domestic life. The defining event of the book, a husband’s death, occurs before the story begins. The rest of the book is comprised of small events and decisions that contribute to the changes in Nora’s life.  She reluctantly accepts a job someone has arranged for her and grows in that position. She joins a music society, takes singing lessons and redecorates her home. She stands apart from her sisters and in-laws and confidently cultivates her own tastes and opinions. Toibin has based Nora on his own mother and describes her difficulties with great understanding. If you are looking for a book with action, or even a defined plot, this is not the book for you. Nora Webster is a study in the quiet courage required to live an ordinary life.

Check out Nora Webster @ the library today!