Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín

Do you ever feel like you’ve read a completely different book to everyone else, even though they had the same title? Such was the case with Nora Webster, by Colm Tóibín.

It’s true Irish misery porn (which I generally ‘enjoy’), and focuses on widow, Nora Webster. With four children and not enough money, Nora struggles to come to terms with her life, particularly in a small town full of well-meaning but stifling friends and acquaintances.

Nora Webster has been described as “…a perfect work of fiction” (Los Angeles Times), a book that will “sneak up on readers and capture their imaginations” (USA TODAY), and “Miraculous…Tóibín portrays Nora with tremendous sympathy and understanding” (The Washington Post).

What the what? I got none of this. The writing is fine (although I wasn’t pausing over sections as I did with Enright earlier this year), and although Nora’s sons Donal and Conor were beautifully crafted, Nora was all over the shop (and her cold, distant attitude seemed to contradict the supposedly significant things she does later in the book – singing, joining the Gramophone Club and redecorating her lounge room).

2/5 Tóibín fans, tell me what I missed.

I received my copy of Nora Webster from the publisher, Schribner, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

I did like the pub scene where the locals got uptight Phyllis pissed, so crack open the brandy with this book.


8 responses

    • Which is EXACTLY why I feel I’ve missed something… I think I’m generally a careful reader, looking for and appreciating detail or point-of-difference, but I really struggled with this book.

  1. “Misery porn” = never thought of the term to describe these books! Sorry that this book was pretty meh to you, it’s such a weird and baffling feeling especially when it’s such a lauded book (had the same experience with Ali Smith’s How to be Both).

  2. I haven’t read this one, but I’ve already tried this author and felt he wasn’t clicking with me. I love the opening line of your review, because YES. It’s a strange experience to read a book that has so much praise and feel so out of sync with the rest of the world.

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