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Nora Webster (2014)

by Colm Tóibín

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,4757112,496 (3.87)164
"From one of contemporary literature's bestselling, critically acclaimed and beloved authors, a magnificent new novel set in Ireland, about a fiercely compelling young widow and mother of four, navigating grief and fear, struggling for hope. Set in Wexford, Ireland, Colm Tóibín's superb seventh novel introduces the formidable, memorable and deeply moving Nora Webster. Widowed at forty, with four children and not enough money, Nora has lost the love of her life, Maurice, the man who rescued her from the stifling world to which she was born. And now she fears she may be drawn back into it. Wounded, strong-willed, clinging to secrecy in a tiny community where everyone knows your business, Nora is drowning in her own sorrow and blind to the suffering of her young sons, who have lost their father. Yet she has moments of stunning empathy and kindness, and when she begins to sing again, after decades, she finds solace, engagement, a haven--herself. Nora Webster is a masterpiece in character study by a writer at the zenith of his career, "beautiful and daring" (The New York Times Book Review) and able to "sneak up on readers and capture their imaginations" (USA TODAY). In Nora Webster, Tóibín has created a character as iconic, engaging and memorable as Madame Bovary or Hedda Gabler"--… (more)
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    A Hundred Small Lessons: A Novel by Ashley Hay (Micheller7)
    Micheller7: Character study more than plot driven.
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» See also 164 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
Last year, I read 'Brooklyn' by the same author, and it was one of my Books of the Year. It stays with me still. So I approached 'Norah Webster' with some eagerness. And I was disappointed. I strongly disliked Norah, amazed that she could neglect her sons so comprehensively during the time of her husband's fatal illness, and then after his death. We join the story some time after that death. I admired the spare, taut narrative. I didn't mind that the story was not plot-driven. But in the end, I simply wasn't all that interested in turning the pages, though matters improved for me once Norah discovered music. On reflection, I feel this book may be one that seems better for a bit of distance. I may even be tempted to re-read it. But not this week. ( )
  Margaret09 | Apr 15, 2024 |
Nora Webster was a very touching story of a middle aged woman coming to terms with her husband's tragic death. I've read a few books on this theme, but this one really stood out. Mostly, because of where and when it took place. It turns out coping with grief in a small Irish town in the early 1970ies was complicated. Everyone wants to help; family members of course, but also the neighbors as well. And while this may seem like the blessing of living in a small town. It turns out there is a dark side to it as well. Townspeople and family members simply over did it trying to care for Nora. They felt they were more qualified to decide what was right for Nora and her children than she herself did. It was really interesting to watch Nora balance thanking these people for their wish to help, and her urge to tell them to just leave here the hell alone. Nora was truly an admirable woman. ( )
  kevinkevbo | Jul 14, 2023 |
Nora Webster is forty years old with four children. Two of them are still young enough to be at home and need the kind of everyday attention a mother should give. But Nora has just lost her husband, Maurice, and this unexpected tragedy has left her ragged and at sea. She finds herself separated in many ways from the children whom she obviously loves and not very adept at taking or giving comfort.

Nora has to decipher what her life is going to be like now, how she is going to be an individual instead of part of a couple, and how she fits into the world as Nora and not Nora/Maurice. That realization is harsh and sometimes impossible to grasp, but it is also coupled with the inevitable changes that both she and the children must face economically, socially and internally.

I liked Nora. She is trying not to let others define her future for her and the children. She is trying to allow the children to chose some things for themselves, not always dictate to them what they should think, be and feel. That makes her seem removed or unfeeling, but I think it is the opposite. She is being faced with re-imagining herself without a husband to help steer the future and there seem to be a lot of people in her life that feel they have better answers than she does. Her family and friends want to help, but she feels them whispering behind her back and she reacts to the judgment in the only way she can. I appreciate that she struggles with life and relationships--don't we all.

Toibin has chosen to paint the picture of a quite ordinary woman. Nothing spectacular happens to her, her world is everyday and her problems are everyday as well. She has to deal with money, job issues, helping her children while leaving them some space to grow, daring to chose what she loves in life instead of what other people think she should love (or not), daring to be herself. She will live and die, make little impact, and probably be forgotten, but for her in this time and space she is given, she matters. She is herself, but she is also us. Imperfect, flawed, but trying. ( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
Colm Toibin did an excellent job portraying Nora Webster. She is so ordinary you can see yourself in her. She can't bring herself to say the right things and blurt out the wrong things. She wants to laugh when she shouldn't. She offers silence when she doesn't want to say what she should. She frequently is at a loss of what to say in reply. There are so many things she wants to say but doesn't because she knows she shouldn't. She knows less about her sons' lives than her sister-in-law but does not want to admit it. She doesn't know what to do with her children. But she knows what she doesn't want, and is able to stand up for herself. She learns to like music and singing, and make friends. Her instincts of what's best for her children turn out to be right. I love her! ( )
  siok | Dec 12, 2021 |
Like Barbara Pym, Colm Tóibín can take ordinary life and make it...well, engaging. Nora Webster has suddenly lost her husband, while she still has two young sons to raise, and two older daughters to get through university. This book is all about her feeling her way through the grief and uncertainty, taking charge of her new life bit by bit, while fending off well-meaning but intrusive neighbors and relatives who know just what she ought to be doing, and sometimes go so far as doing it for her. Somehow she finds the balance between accepting the help she needs, and putting the kibosh on the meddling, but not without missteps and stumbles. We do feel she'll probably be all right in the end, and so will her children. The setting, which is mainly in the background, is the late 60's into the start of The Troubles in Ireland, and we get a fascinating glimpse of the times from the perspective of a small community well to the south whose members are so far untouched by the unrest and escalating violence, but have a variety of views on its causes, justification and potential solutions. ( )
1 vote laytonwoman3rd | Sep 13, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
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Colm Tóibínprimary authorall editionscalculated
Shaw, FionaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Brid Tóibín (1921–2000)
Niall Tóibín (1959–2004)
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"You must be fed up of them. Will they never stop coming?"
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"From one of contemporary literature's bestselling, critically acclaimed and beloved authors, a magnificent new novel set in Ireland, about a fiercely compelling young widow and mother of four, navigating grief and fear, struggling for hope. Set in Wexford, Ireland, Colm Tóibín's superb seventh novel introduces the formidable, memorable and deeply moving Nora Webster. Widowed at forty, with four children and not enough money, Nora has lost the love of her life, Maurice, the man who rescued her from the stifling world to which she was born. And now she fears she may be drawn back into it. Wounded, strong-willed, clinging to secrecy in a tiny community where everyone knows your business, Nora is drowning in her own sorrow and blind to the suffering of her young sons, who have lost their father. Yet she has moments of stunning empathy and kindness, and when she begins to sing again, after decades, she finds solace, engagement, a haven--herself. Nora Webster is a masterpiece in character study by a writer at the zenith of his career, "beautiful and daring" (The New York Times Book Review) and able to "sneak up on readers and capture their imaginations" (USA TODAY). In Nora Webster, Tóibín has created a character as iconic, engaging and memorable as Madame Bovary or Hedda Gabler"--

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amazon ca :Set in Wexford, Ireland, and in breathtaking Ballyconnigar by the sea, Colm Toibin's tour de force eighth novel introduces the formidable, memorable Nora Webster. Widowed at 40, with four children and not enough money, Nora has lost the love of her life, Maurice, the man who rescued her from the stifling world she was born into. Wounded and self-centred from grief and the need to provide for her family, she struggles to be attentive to her children's needs and their own difficult loss. In masterfully detailing the intimate lives of one small family, Toibin has given us a vivid portrait of a time and an intricately woven tapestry of lives in a small town where everyone knows everyone's business, and where well-meaning gestures often have unforeseen consequences. Toibin has created one of contemporary fiction's most memorable female characters, one who has the strength and depth of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler. In Nora Webster, Colm Toibin is writing at the height of his powers.
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