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The Master by Colm Toibin

The Master (original 2004; edition 2005)

by Colm Toibin

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2,096503,147 (3.85)257
Title:The Master
Authors:Colm Toibin
Info:Picador (2005), Paperback, 368 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Master by Colm Tóibín (2004)


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English (50)  Swedish (1)  All languages (51)
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
A complex man is portrayed in a complex narrative. Toibin takes us inside the mind of Henry James. Through flashbacks, we grow to understand how Henry James's childhood in America, his experiences during the Civil War, and his family relationships shaped his life and led him to live in England and write some of the most influential novels of the era. Some of my favorite passages were the ones that shed light on James's writing process and helped us understand the multiple influences on a novelist. This is incredibly well-written. I wish I had read it at a calmer time. I felt like it deserved even more attention. ( )
  porch_reader | Dec 15, 2014 |
I have just finished reading [The Master] a second time, which we did for bookclub. I really enjoyed the first reading, whilst finding it a little dense - however in the second reading I found it just delightful and a book to savour.

I enjoyed it because of the writing (manicured), the story (5 years with flashbacks over 50), the stifling manners and sensibilities (self-contained, protective), the tensions (sibling, sexual, obligations of friendship), the motivations (creativity and self-protection), the reveals (particularly the final section of the final chapter).

There is an excellent review in the NYT, which helped my understanding and placement of the characters as the book altered reality to complete the fiction.


I read the book with wikipedia by my side to place the characters not only in the relationship with Henry James, but in their broader context. ( )
  tandah | Jul 5, 2014 |
Read during Winter 2007

Overall, I enjoyed this very much but it was also a bit of slog at times. I've read a number of Henry James' novels but I know almost nothing of his life. About a third of the way through, I read a review of the new (massive) William James biography, which seemed to match very well with what I was reading. I thought Toibin captured alot of the style of James, in terms of use of language and sentence style, but not so much the hidden undercurrents that I always feel I'm missing the greater import of in James. It made it more accessible but, perhaps, not as successful. Worth reading, though, esp. if you've been middling on James. I can't escape a bit of the feeling, though, at the end that I was just glad to cross it off the list than anything other feeling.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
This 2004 novel by Irish author Colm Tóibín is a fictionalized biography of Henry James. The time period is the late 1800’s and it reads like a who’s who in literature. Henry James, the author of The Turn of the Screw, The Wings of the Dove and many others was an American who lived his life in Paris, Rome, London and other less known places. Henry James spent some time in Ireland. He didn’t like it even though the James family was from Ireland before they immigrated to the U.S. After the failure of his play, Guy Domville Henry James goes to Ireland to get away from the public. He spent time there with English people who were policing Ireland for the King. Ireland is described as squalor and threatening, those of mendicant class and those with money and manners. Henry James never married and this book present James as sexually inhibited, frustrated man who never married. There is allusions to his being a secret homosexual but this is only speculation based on letters her wrote to the a young Norwegian Hendrik Andersen. Hendrik Andersen was a sculptor who wanted to start a art political system called the World City which would be a Utopia of artist creating a better world. There was a large age difference and the affection expressed could have been fatherly and European in nature and never meant to be sexual. Henry had many sexually suppressed relations with females including Constance Fenimore Woolson. Henry never really wanted to give up his solitude and share his life beyond short periods and he never married.
I enjoyed this book and now look forward to finishing The Wings of the Dove which has sat on my shelf half read for way too long. The author also describes Henry James way of writing his stories which are really about his observations and his family and himself. In The Turn of the Screw the girl and boy are Henry and his sister Alice. Many of the females in his books are his cousin Minny Temple. This was a very enjoyable read.
( )
  Kristelh | Nov 16, 2013 |
A meticulous exploration of a sensitive but very guarded person, only able to deal with his feeling (and then not all of them) by writing fictional accounts. The fact that the subject, Henry James, and his family are well known real people added to the enjoyment. ( )
  snash | Oct 10, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
''The Master'' is sure to be greatly admired by James devotees; just as surely it will strike less ardent readers as the kind of book in which not much actually happens.
Whatever Toibin's literary-critical and ideological interest in James, ''The Master'' is unquestionably the work of a first-rate novelist -- one who has for the past decade been writing excellent novels about people cut off from their feelings or families or both.

» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Colm Tóibínprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bandini, DitteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bandini, GiovanniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Till Bairbre och Micheal Stack
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Sometimes in the night he dreamed about the dead--familiar faces and the others, half-forgotten ones, fleetingly summoned up.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743250419, Paperback)

Like Michael Cunningham in The Hours, Colm Tóibín captures the extraordinary mind and heart of a great writer. Beautiful and profoundly moving, The Master tells the story of a man born into one of America's first intellectual families who leaves his country in the late nineteenth century to live in Paris, Rome, Venice, and London among privileged artists and writers.

In stunningly resonant prose, Tóibín captures the loneliness and the hope of a master of psychological subtlety whose forays into intimacy inevitably failed those he tried to love. The emotional intensity of this portrait is riveting.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:20:21 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In 'The master', his brilliant and profoundly moving fifth novel, Colm To?ibi?n tells the story of Henry James, an American-born genius of the modern novel who became a connoisseur of exile, living among artists and aristocrats in Paris, Rome, Venice and London.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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