Monday, March 9, 2015

Nora Webster by Colm Toibin

Since I've booked a trip to Ireland, I decided to turn my reading efforts to some Irish literature.  I had previously read Toibin's book, Brooklyn, and liked it but it was set in the US.  This was set in Ireland - in particular Enniscorthy with some visits to surrounding areas.

When the story begins, Nora Webster is newly widowed - left with four children.  Her daughters are away at school - one in college, the other boarding school and her two sons live with her.  The older of the two sons has developed a stammer - clearly emotionally related to the loss of his father.  The book follows about 3 years in Nora's life as she learns to come to terms with her widowhood and single parent status.  She has not worked since marriage but is offered a job at the office where she had worked - this is a small town and everybody knows everybody so the company owners clearly offer her work as they know she needs it.  Unfortunately Nora will be working for an angry woman who she had treated poorly when they were peers years earlier.

Nora also sells the cottage where her family had happily summered for years and instead they rent a trailer every year.  This takes time for the children to accept.  And it's hard for Nora to accept the financial help she receives and the emotional help her children receive from her husband's brother and sister as well as her own two sisters.

But eventually Nora discovers (or rediscovers) her own interests and makes new friends - and even comes to terms with parting with her husband's belongings.

All of this is set against a backdrop of the troubles in Northern Ireland which are also interesting to read about from an Irish perspective.  Personally I also took note of the descriptions of scenery - I will remember to look for certain places that sounded beautiful.

Toibin writes and creates interesting characters.  I definitely recommend his work.

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