I’ve become a massive fan of Colm Tóibín over the last few years, particularly the superb Brooklyn and The Testament of Mary, works that really touched me and books that I’ve recommended to many. I was very excited when I read the blurb for Nora Webster and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
Nora is a recently bereaved woman living in a small town in Ireland in the 1960s. We see her holding court at the wake, grieving for her husband and trying to introduce groups of people who’ve never met. Maurice was an intelligent man, loved by everyone it seems, and we see Nora trying to find a new life, one without the man who was clearly well respected in the community.
As in his previous work, Tóibín is excellent at putting us into the minds of women as they try to rebuild their lives and find direction. Nora wonders how she’ll spend the quiet hours by herself and how she’s going to live. She finds it impossible to return to their summer house as there’s too many memories attached to it. She notices the changes in her children as a result of the death of their father and worries about the impact it’ll have on them.
It’s wonderful to observe Nora as she comes out of this grief and finds her way in the world again. She’s a strong woman in the workplace and quickly builds friendships and alliances throughout the town. She’s got a great passion for music and really finds her voice as time goes on. She’s really excited about listening to records and carefully selects her purchases. She feels that other people will see this as a waste of money but she knows the value and power of music and the joy it can bring.
Nora Webster is a superb book, Tóibín has created another great female character in a story of a woman that wasn’t understood by many in the past finding her way through grief and emerging as a bright, independent person.
Nora Webster will be published by Viking on October 2.