I was a bit concerned when pre-publication interviews with Colm Tóibín suggested his new novel, Nora Webster, might be a slightly depressing tale of emotional distance and maternal absence, but the actual experience of reading Nora Webster is completely different; it’s an uplifting and profoundly inspirational novel.
The novel opens with the death of Nora Webster’s husband, Maurice, a longtime schoolteacher in Wexford. Nora’s first action is to quietly sell off the small seaside cottage the family have used for holidays. Nora keeps the transaction obsessively private, wanting nobody to know what she’s contemplating until it’s done. This is classic small-town Ireland, obsessed with the opinions and judgements of others, and interpreting the small victories as instances where some personal privacy is maintained. However, rather than writing a stereotypical novel of provincial stagnation and fearful conformity, Tóibín has written a novel about great courage and personal resilience, as Nora deliberately carves out a new life for herself rather than living solely for her children’s material survival.
[Read the rest of the review at atriptoIreland.com…]