Nora Webster - Colm Tóibín

I received this book from NetGalley on my kindle, but when I missed the publication date I decided to listen to it instead. I am a fan of audiobooks, especially when I can listen to them while I work. (ok, not serious work, more like mindless grunt work.) I was especially glad to listen to this one when I realized there were some names I never would have pronounced correctly. And no, I don’t mean Nora, I can handle that one, thanks. But there are a few tricky others, and besides, I do like being read to. However, when my library copy expired and I couldn’t get it back again quickly, I picked up my kindle and finished it from there. It was the best of both worlds, really.

 

So, having said all that without really saying anything I guess, I will let you know that I loved this book. Nora is widowed at forty and left with four children, and of course, not a whole lot of money. Despite the setbacks life has dealt her, Nora remains strong-willed and bold. This is not a rollicking Irish novel in the typical sense, nor is it a stereotypical alcohol-fueled one either. It is funny without being slapstick, and sad in a profound, heartfelt way. There are lots of interesting, sympathetic characters in this book, but they are nothing like the formidable Nora. I would say the other characters are not as well-developed as her, but maybe they just pale in comparison.

 

What I found so compelling about the book was Nora’s brutal honesty, with herself and with others. She has a stunning self-awareness; she does not kid herself about anything. This is a story that plays out over a backdrop of almost overwhelming, aching loss, and, as a reader, I suffered along with Nora as she faced her new and unexpected life. I loved this book because I loved Nora, living a hard, unremarkable life with strength of character and a deeply moving grace.