Posted: Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Colm Toíbín’s Nora Webster is set in a small Irish community in the early 1970s. Nora’s beloved husband, Maurice, has recently died, and she is left to grieve while coping with the challenges of raising children, worrying about money, and finding a way to accept her new life alone. With few exceptions, the neighbors are kind, solicitous, and concerned about Nora, but she regards them as unhelpful intruders. Over and over, Nora makes decisions to move her life forward, and then second-guesses herself. Indeed many of her decisions are not good ones, and it is not helpful that she tends to make them without input from her children. She doesn’t really know how to share her concerns with her children or to help them with their own grief, and they all begin to mistrust her on one level or another. This difficult family dynamic seems to be an already familiar one for Nora’s siblings - apparently she thought she escaped their stifling family concern when she married Maurice, and here they are again. Too much In her life; too much in her business. While Nora often seems uncertain, and even a bit helpless, she has a good deal of backbone and determination when she knows exactly what she wants.
There are many mini-climatic moments in the story that turn out to go nowhere, as the action, such as it is, and the narrative all plays out in Nora’s head. And because there isn’t a lot of descriptive writing or action to move the story forward, this novel seems to be more of a psychological study.
Book groups: put this one on your list! There’s much to discuss.
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