Posted in Books I have read

Nora Webster – Colm Tóibín

Historical Fiction 4*s
Historical Fiction

At times, unsurprisingly, I found myself struggling with the true portrayal of grief that rolls off the pages of this novel. Nora Webster is forty when we first meet her. Having been a traditional wife, she both fights against and leans into the role of a traditional widow. With her two eldest daughters away studying Nora is reunited with her two young sons, two boys that were looked after by her aunt Josie whilst Nora attended to Maurice during his stay in hospital. It is 1969 and Nora is living on the cusp of a changing world, a world she wasn’t even aware that she wanted to change, after all it was Maurice who was the political one, everyone loved Maurice’s conversation.

‘She wondered now that Maurice was dead if this would change, if she would have to say more’

This is a book, unlike Nora, has a lot to say, but it does so in an almost unobtrusive manner; an author who allows the reader to make the connections through the vignettes of Nora’s life, this being a book that allows us a glimpse of Nora’s life, as well as those of her family, before moving on. It isn’t a book where huge action takes place, rather a lot happens as this family find a new way in a changing world, without Maurice to guide them. So the book details the visitors, the wider family, the day Nora had her hair dyed, the day she sells the holiday home until we are able to build a picture of what life had been like, and what life looks like now. But rest assured, Nora is no wispy character, she can be a formidable opponent and can turn a spiky turn of phrase when necessary!

‘The golf club is a great place for information,’ Nora replied. ‘I’d join it myself if I could play, or if I was nosy enough.’

The story is set in Wexford, Ireland and Maurice had rescued Nora from an unhappy home with a mother who seemingly despised her. When left alone Nora is initially displays the very truisms of grief, wanting to be with people and yet longing for the time when she is left alone:

‘In future, she hoped, fewer people would call. In future, once the boys went to bed, she might have the house to herself more often. She would learn how to spend these hours. In the peace of these winter evenings, she would work out how she was going to live.’

Finding other’s expectation of how a widow should behave, intrusive:

‘And they would stand looking at her until she could not wait to get away from them. There was something hungry in the way they held her hand or looked into their eyes. She wondered if she had ever done that to anybody, and thought that she had not.’

And that was without the practical considerations of how they were to live now that there was little income. Rescue came in the form of her old job, the one she had before Maurice at Gibney’s. Reluctantly Nora goes to work leaving the boys to look after themselves on their return from work until it becomes apparent that this simply isn’t working. It takes Nora some time before she acknowledges that the loss of Maurice has had a massive impact on the two boys – the poignant scenes where they sit in the classroom, learning, the very rooms where they used to meet him after he had finished teaching for the day struggling with the new order of life. A life that isn’t helped because Nora’s grief seems to have disconnected her from her children, she views them and their problems from a distance, mindful of her own mother’s interference in her life, never wondering if this apparent disinterest is just as damaging.

A touching and emotional book, rooted in a specific time with the help of Donal’s obsession with the moon landing as we see Nora learn a new way, a time when she is more involved in the present and finds her own interests including some that she would never have explored if Maurice had live.

I’d like to thank the publishers Viking for giving me a copy of this evocative and insightful novel.

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week In Books (November 18)

This Week In Books

Hosted by Lypsyy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

At the moment I am reading Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín, a book that has been on my TBR for far too long. It is in fact over a year since I read Fiction Fan’s review of this book!

Nora Webster


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.
Colm Tóibín’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. NetGalley

I have recently finished the very enjoyable The Killing of Polly Carter by Robert Thorogood.

The Killing of Polly Carter

You can read the synopsis and an excerpt of this one in yesterday’s post

Next up I’m catching up on the Nicci French days of the week series with Friday On My Mind

Friday on my Mind


When a bloated corpse is found floating in the River Thames the police can at least sure that identifying the victim will be straightforward. Around the dead man’s wrist is a hospital band. On it are the words Dr F. Klein.
But psychotherapist Frieda Klein is very much alive. And, after evidence linking her to the murder is discovered, she becomes the prime suspect.
Unable to convince the police of her innocence, Frieda is forced to make a bold decision in order to piece together the terrible truth before it’s too late either for her or for those she loves. NetGalley

What are you reading this week? Do share!

See what I’ve been reading in 2015 here

Posted in Weekly Posts

Friday Finds (October 31)

Friday Finds Hosted by Should be Reading

FRIDAY FINDS showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).

So, come on — share with us your FRIDAY FINDS

This week I’m thrilled to say NetGalley was kind enough to approve me for a copy of Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín after reading a fantastic review of this book on FictionFan’s Book Reviews, although I have a horrible feeling that I may have to add more books by Colm Tóibín if this lives up to my expectations.

Nora Webster


Set in Wexford, Ireland, Colm Tóibín’s superb seventh novel introduces the formidable, memorable and deeply moving Nora Webster. Widowed at forty, with four children and not enough money, Nora has lost the love of her life, Maurice, the man who rescued her from the stifling world to which she was born. And now she fears she may be drawn back into it. Wounded, strong-willed, clinging to secrecy in a tiny community where everyone knows your business, Nora is drowning in her own sorrow and blind to the suffering of her young sons, who have lost their father. Yet she has moments of stunning empathy and kindness, and when she begins to sing again, after decades, she finds solace, engagement, a haven—herself. Amazon

I also have a copy of a book not out until June 2015 which seems slightly ridiculous and required another tab on the TBR excel spreadsheet! I requested After We Fall by Emma Kavanagh after reading so many good reviews of Falling by the same author.

After We Fall


A moody, intense debut psychological thriller by a former police psychologist, this debut novel explores four lives that fall apart in the tense aftermath of a plane crash, perfect for fans of Tana French, S. J. Watson, and Alice LaPlante. Unraveling what holds these four together is a tense, taut tale about good people who make bad decisions that ultimately threaten to destroy them. Debut author Emma Kavanagh deftly weaves together the stories of those who lost someone or something of themselves in one tragic incident, exploring how swiftly everything we know can come crashing down. NetGalley

Somehow I managed to make a couple of purchases too this week. After reading a Tuesday Teaser about My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni on My Dog Eared Purpose I was sold,and promptly bought a kindle copy for the bargain price of 99p as a Kindle First Reads. I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of this program before; basically you can get one of four books that is yet to be released for 99p each month. I can see that this will add another twelve books a year to the already sky high TBR. Anyway back to the book, My Dog Eared Purpose has now written a great review that endorses my choice.

My Sister's Grave


Tracy Crosswhite has spent twenty years questioning the facts surrounding her sister Sarah’s disappearance and the murder trial that followed. She doesn’t believe that Edmund House—a convicted rapist and the man condemned for Sarah’s murder—is the guilty party. Motivated by the opportunity to obtain real justice, Tracy became a homicide detective with the Seattle PD and dedicated her life to tracking down killers.
When Sarah’s remains are finally discovered near their hometown in the northern Cascade mountains of Washington State, Tracy is determined to get the answers she’s been seeking. As she searches for the real killer, she unearths dark, long-kept secrets that will forever change her relationship to her past—and open the door to deadly danger. Amazon

Finally I also weakened when reading Margot Kinberg’s In the Spotlight post featuring The Dying Light by Alison Joseph.

The Dying Light


Young and fiercely independent, Sister Agnes Bourdillon has never felt the need of a wimple to express her spirituality. But her strength is tested by her secondment to Silworth, a South London women’s prison. She does, however, find the work compelling, as she attempts to negotiate the network of bullies and victims, loyalties and hatreds, prisoners and jailers, searching to understand the often violent histories that lie behind each woman.
Then the father of Cally Fisher, one of the most turbulent inmates, is shot dead. The chief suspect is Cally’s boyfriend. Reminded unnervingly of how she is losing her own mother, who is rapidly retreating from reality in a French nursing home, Agnes finds that she too has become entangled in a dark world that stretches further than the prison walls… Amazon

What did you find to read this week?