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Master by Colm Toibin

Master (original 2004; edition 2005)

by Colm Toibin

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2,034None3,296 (3.85)230
Authors:Colm Toibin
Info:Picador (2005), Paperback, 368 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Henry James, Historical Fiction

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The Master by Colm Tóibín (2004)

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English (46)  Swedish (1)  All languages (47)
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
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 |
The Master is the fictionalized biography of author Henry James. James was born of a wealthy Boston family, but lived much of his life in Europe. Throughout this book, James struggles in his relationships with both family and friends. He never completely loses his aloof standoffish behavior as well as the book hints of a struggle accepting or exploring his sexuality.

I have to say that I really struggled with this book. As I read over other people's reviews and I kept thinking - Is that the same book? Maybe it is because I've only read 1 short story by Henry James - The Turn of the Screw. As the novel covered how James came up with his ideas for the characters and plot of this ghost story, I did find that interesting. But I kept on hoping for a breakthrough in his own personal life. Either by developing a long lasting friendship, or at least acceptance/contentment with his life. Maybe my dissatisfaction was due to the audio production - the narrator, Ralph Cosham was flat and morose (which seemed to match James' life...). Not a great listen for me. ( )
  jmoncton | Jun 3, 2013 |
I know this looks really weird and everything, but apparently it's pretty great. Fictionalized bio of Henry James. Just, y'know, if I read him maybe I'll check this out too.
  AlCracka | Apr 2, 2013 |
I loved this book. I thought Tóibín did a beautiful job adapting his style to one that was evocative of Henry James, although more easily readable. The novel moves with James to London, Ireland, Italy, and Rye, and effectively integrates James' memories of the past in flashbacks that come as responses to his relationships, tensions, and interactions with others.

Tóibín has been described as a writer who is keenly interested in his characters' psychology and relationships, and this interest comes to the fore in The Master. James emerges very much as an isolated figure. He worries about how he appears to others, he struggles to maintain his composure, and in his zeal to maintain his privacy, he shies away from intimate relationships with others inside and outside of his family. He even (or especially) shields himself from knowledge of his true identity, particularly with regards to his sexuality. Tóibín's style, restrained and formal, beautifully (and sadly) conveys James' isolation and separation.

Finally, I also found Tóibín's depiction of James's writing process to be revealing. Through chapters that focus on James's relationships with important figures in his life, including his sister Alice, Tóibín explores ways in which James used his writing to communicate with, remember, and in some cases make amends to ghosts in his life. I was left thinking about the limitations on intimacy that this approach can lead to - the barriers a writer can erect by being an observer rather than an active participant, the instrumentality of relationships formed and experiences sought primarily to provide material for a novel or play, and the betrayal felt by friends and family when they read James's work only to see themselves appearing as characters. ( )
  KrisR | Mar 30, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 46 (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)

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