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Nora Webster by Colm Toibin

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Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award 2014.

Colm Toibin's Nora is a character as resonant as Anna Karenina or Madame Bovary and Nora Webster is a novel that illuminates our own lives in a way that is rare in literature. Its humanity and compassion forge an unforgettable reading experience.

The Costa Judges said Toibin's novel was “a beautiful novel which is a joy and pleasure to

If you like Colm Toibin you might also like to read books by Michael Benoit, Sebastian Barry and Philip Pullman.

The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. Nora Webster is a middle aged-woman struggling to come to terms with the untimely death of her husband, Maurice, who had been a successful and popular schoolmaster. She has young children who are still dependent on her, and she is forced to go back to work to make ends meet, but she wants to see Maurice’s early death as an escape from ‘the tremulous hands of age’ and believes that he has been ‘made swiftly an immortal’. Nora finds it difficult to deal with the mundane matters that concern her siblings and her in-laws, but gradually she finds solace through singing. Tóibín weaves his way through Nora’s private problems against the political backdrop of the sixties, as the distant echoes of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, from Civil Rights marches to Bloody Sunday, reverberate in the southern town of Enniscorthy. Tóibín’s perfectly pitched prose proves once more that he is one of the greatest writers of our time.
~ Anthony Lafferty


Nora Webster by Colm Toibin

Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award 2014.

Nora Webster is the heartbreaking new novel from one of the greatest novelists writing today. It is the late 1960s in Ireland. Nora Webster is living in a small town, looking after her four children, trying to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. She is fiercely intelligent, at times difficult and impatient, at times kind, but she is trapped by her circumstances, and waiting for any chance which will lift her beyond them. Slowly, through the gift of music and the power of friendship, she finds a glimmer of hope and a way of starting again. As the dynamic of the family changes, she seems both fiercely self-possessed but also a figure of great moral ambiguity, making her one of the most memorable heroines in contemporary fiction. The portrait that is painted in the years that follow is harrowing, piercingly insightful, always tender and deeply true.


'A profoundly gifted world writer.' Sebastian Barry

'A widow gets her life back in a novel pulsing with warmth and vitality ... It is memories from Toibin own early years, played over with a mixture of irony and nostalgia, warmth and lack of illusion, which give this enthralling novel about someone gradually retrieving her life its distinctive quality' Sunday Times

'Tender, delicately oblique in its narration, and exquisitely well-written' The Times

'A luminous, elliptical novel in which everyday life manages, in moments, to approach the mystical ... There is much about Nora Webster that we never know. And her very mystery is what makes her regeneration, when it comes, feel universal' -- Jennifer Egan New York Times

'Beautiful and heartbreaking. It's so richly detailed and laced with such dialogue that you feel like you are living in Nora's world' Independent

'Arresting. As this novel movingly proposes, there are no ordinary women and no ordinary lives' Irish Indendent

The story is so expertly crafted that it achieves a luminous intensity, which lingers long in the memory' Mail on Sunday

'Toibin is a master at evoking emotions with particular sensitivity ... This is a beguiling story that envelops readers like Irish mist. The slow unhurried narrative keeps pace with Nora's grief and changing emotions. By the time she is ready to cut the last ties to her husband, Toibin has woven the complex threads of family life into a portrait of a much-loved woman' Daily Express

'This novel deserves to be read as closely as Nora listens to Beethoven. It leaves you with much to ponder ... Our bond with the Websters makes us imagine they're out there, living and longing, with fire crackling in their hearth' Guardian

About the Author

Colm Toibin

Colm Tóibín was born in Enniscorthy in 1955. He is the author of eight novels including Blackwater Lightship, The Master and The Testament of Mary, all three of which were nominated for the Booker Prize, with The Master also winning the IMPAC Award, and Brooklyn, which won the Costa Novel Award. He has also published two collections of stories and many works of non-fiction. His most recent novel is Nora Webster. He lives in Dublin.

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Book Info

Publication date

30th November 1999


Colm Toibin

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