Saturday, 27 June 2015

Nora Webster - Colm Toibin

Looking on Amazon for other people's views, this is another marmite read.  I'm always disappointed at the views of people who say "boring", or "nothing happened".  Quite a lot happens to Nora, a widow with two older teenage girls, and two younger teenage boys, in rural Ireland with a quiet but telling background of the start of "the troubles" in Northern Ireland towards the end of the 20th Century.  

She has to sell the little tin-roofed seaside house where her family spent all their Summers - it has to be patched and mended every year, and she cannot deal with that alone (and the money will come in handy).  The two girls need to get through college, one on to teachers' training, and one to University in Dublin.  The boys, one with a stutter, and an unhappy time at school taught by the Christian Brothers, and the other, a worrier about everything.  

Nora really isn't a sociable animal, particularly after her husband dies.  She doesn't really want to make the right noises when yet another acquaintance knocks on her door and asks how she's doing.  She has to take a job to pay her way, and ends up in the accounts department of a local factory, under a harridan of a supervisor.  She must somehow find her own way in life, and although she has family who would support her if she let them, she really wants to do it on her own.  She wants to be Nora the woman, not Nora the mother, Nora the sister, Nora the widow.  This is her story.

Colm Toibin has a wonderful way with words - he has this woman perfectly portrayed, how did he do that?  One of the reviewers that didn't like this book said that they didn't like Nora.  Well, she isn't particularly likeable, but that doesn't make it a bad read!  I felt I knew her well (and liked her better) by the time I got to the end.   I was pre-occupied with other things when I started it, and it is a book better read in large chunks I think, so if it passes your way, do have a go.
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