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Contents

  1. Nora Webster Summary & Study Guide Description
  2. Keeping the pressure on: Nora Webster
  3. Most Read in Culture
  4. Nora Webster by Colm Toíbín review – 'a rare and tremendous achievement' | Books | The Guardian

Nora has only one problem: no means of support. And for that to happen, she must begin in a very icy place indeed. So grief has made her a terrible, selfish parent. The two boys can always fend for themselves, she assumes. But her immediate boss hated Nora in high school and grew up to be a vengeful witch with a long memory. Just to complicate matters, Nora shares an office with a Gibney heiress who could not be more of an airhead and spends many work hours gabbing about boyfriends on the telephone.

Nora Webster Summary & Study Guide Description

This situation will eventually become so fraught that Nora walks out of work half-crazed, with a scissors in her hand. Much of the book is set in , when indelible history is being made. She turns out to have a fine singing voice. And Nora witnesses the coming of a union to a company so rooted in elitism that the very idea of giving rights to the rabble strikes the Gibneys as damnably rude. It is the s and Nora Webster's husband Maurice has died young, and she is left to fend for herself and her four children in a small town in Southern Ireland.

Colm Tóibín: Reading from 'Nora Webster'

Maurice was a teacher who was loved and respected throughout the community: a presence whom people gravitated toward, known for his love of company, his compassion and his strong political beliefs. For the years of their marriage Nora was content to exist in his shadow. But with his death she is thrust into the front line of life and must make a go of it. The two girls, Fiona and Aine, are more or less grown and out of the house, but still at home are Conor and Donal, youngsters who must find their way now without a father. Nora daily feels the tremendous loss of her husband--almost minute by minute--but she has no choice but to heal, a process that is gradual and begins with a clearly articulated wish that people would cease their unannounced visits and pitying stares and let her grieve in peace.

Eventually she finds herself facing major lifestyle choices selling the cottage, returning to work and with each one a subtle distancing from Maurice and his influence takes place, making it easier for her to face the next decision when it comes along. Toibin's novel chronicles Nora's gradual awakening, from tentative widow and mother deferring to the wishes if others and second-guessing her every move, to independent woman getting on with things and making her life her own. The novel is set in life's trenches, where people drag themselves out of bed each morning to face a day that might very well defeat them.

Keeping the pressure on: Nora Webster

Toibin's prose achieves stunning elegance in its very simplicity. The writing is sometimes little more than a chronicle of what happens moment by moment.


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But this is Toibin's genius. He immerses the reader in Nora's conscious thoughts so that not only do we see the world through her eyes, but we feel her needs and desires and suffer keenly her losses and anxieties and injuries. Such drama as exists is built around encounters and Nora's anticipation or dread of them.

Because this is art imitating life you might be fooled into thinking you are reading a novel in which nothing happens. It is only at the end when you emerge from Nora's story and realize where you've been that you grasp the level of skill needed to create a complete and entirely engaging world in prose.

Colm Toibin is a masterful writer. Nora Webster is a remarkable, but quiet novel which is also extremely disquieting and, at points, almost painful to read.

Table of Contents

The complexity of Nora's rather ordinary life is portrayed in a moving and subtle way. He was born May 30, He is an Irish novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, journalist, critic, and poet. He has won dozens of awards-far too many to list here.

Most Read in Culture

He is currently a professor of the Humanities at Columbia University in New York, and he is a professor of creative writing at the University of Manchester. In , he was appointed Chancellor of Liverpool University in Colm has written eleven novels along with scads of non-fiction Wikipedia. Nora Webster is his tenth novel. He has a dream career for any aspiring creative writer.

Ever since I immersed myself in the works of James Joyce, I have developed a fascination for Irish writers. Nora Webster is the story of a woman with four children-two young ladies away at school, Fiona and Aine, and two boys still in high school, Conor and Donal. As the story opens, Nora has been widowed in her early 40s. Maurice was the love of her life, and despite this devastating event, she organizes her finances to take care of her children through college. At first, lots of her neighbors come bearing food and offering help to the point she becomes reclusive.

She had tried since the funeral to ignore this tone, or tolerate it. She had tried to understand that it was shorthand for kindness" One day, she gets in the car and drives to a seaside vacation village to visit a house she and Maurice owned. Everyone tells Nora she should not make any rash decisions.

When she enters the house, she realizes it has no value to her without Maurice. On a spur of the moment, she sells it to a friend, who gives her the fair market price. No one takes advantage of her. The children are disappointed, but they accept Nora's decision. Nora pays a visit to Fiona at school, and they walk to the train. Colm writes, "As they looked at one another, Nora felt Fiona was hostile, and forced herself to remember how upset she must be, and how lonely she might be too. She smiled as she said that they would have to go and in return Fiona smiled at her and the boys.

As soon as Nora walked away, however, she felt helpless and regretted not having said something kind or special, or consoling to Fiona before they left her; maybe even something as simple as asking her when she was coming down next, or emphasizing how much they looked forward to seeing her soon.

She wished she had a phone in the house so she could keep in more regular touch with her. She thought that she might write Fiona a note in the morning thanking her for coming to meet them" Nora is as empathetic and kind as anyone could be. The biggest problem Nora faces is dealing with her oldest son, Donal.

Nora Webster by Colm Toíbín review – 'a rare and tremendous achievement' | Books | The Guardian

He stutters and slowly bonds with one of Nora's sisters. Margaret is fond of the boy, and when he develops a fascination for photography, she builds a darkroom in her home. This story can be enjoyed by all ages. This is a quiet little book centered around Nora Webster, a fortyish Irish woman living in a small town outside of Dublin in the late s.


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  4. Nora Webster Summary & Study Guide.

Her husband Maurice has recently died of a painful illness, and not only is she devastated by the loss, but caring for him in his last weeks seems to have sapped all of her energy. Nora is left alone to raise four children. One daughter, Fiona, is finishing teacher's training in Dublin, and Aine is close to prepping for her final exams, but the boys, Donal and Conor, are still young, vulnerable, and strongly affected by their father's death.

Donal has developed a stammer, and while Conor seems fine, Nora wonders if this is so. The novel follows Nora through a series of changes and struggles, from selling the family's vacation house and taking a job to finally, after six years or so, beginning to blossom as her own person. If you are looking for an exciting, plot-driven novel, Nora Webster will not be your cup of tea.

But Toibin's writing is fine, as usual, and his character sketch a full and affectionate one. Set in Ireland, in , the novel centers on a woman in her mid-forties, whose husband has recently died, leaving her to negotiate child-rearing, find a way to support the family and to become someone other than half of a couple.

Nora's awesome though, being stubborn and willing to stand her ground when she needs to. And women's roles were changing, with Nora's daughters experiencing vastly more freedom than she did.