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Book Review: Colm Tóibín's 'Nora Webster'

 

Paper-back novels commonly found on the ‘buy one, get one at half price’ tables in the central arena of your local chain bookstore are often quick-fire revelations of someone else’s world without too much reality or depth, and possibly written against the clock in response to a publisher’s insistent demand that a sellable writer fulfils his/her contract signed after the first successful title.

Watch the casual browser choose a title from suchlike piles of short life-span offerings, and you might wonder what logic or attraction works best from the commercial sales point of view; there’s no such thing as the ‘best cover design’ despite marketeer’s best efforts, for we’re all individuals and as such, choose subjectively. Literary content may come second to the girl - or crime scene - on the cover.

So, would you choose Nora, appearing as a not particularly sexy woman standing alone on a sea-shore who - according to the revealing back cover blurb - has just been widowed, something that may take you a fair few pages or three to discover otherwise?

Quick-fire reading this is not. There’s a wealth of splendid detail here, couched in neat everyday language, of an almost hour by hour revelation of her thoughts, how she discovers her new self in the reflection of others and how the turn of life’s journey affects her husband-less future. Its very intimacy absorbs one into her world; Tóibín’s revelation of a world well worth exploring when you’ll find more than you bargained for and may therefore never read a chick-lit title again.

'Nora Webster' by Colm Toibin is published by Penguin. RRP £7.00. ISBN 9780141041759

Review by Bruce Edwards

 

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