This novel was chosen by my book group, and I was really looking forward to reading it, as I had read Brooklyn by the same author last year and had enjoyed it – although I did have a few reservations. Mainly I found that in Brooklyn, I didn’t find out enough about the main character – it is told in quite a spare style.
This book is of course about Nora Webster – she is 46, has four children, and has just lost her husband who has died after a lengthy illness. We follow her over the course of three years as she is left to rebuild her life.
I don’t really know how I feel about this book! I think overall I didn’t particularly enjoy reading it – although it was interesting and well written. Nora is an unsympathetic character – I expected to feel sorry for her and relate to her but in fact I found almost the opposite was true! She doesn’t have a very good relationship with a lot of characters in the book – including her own children – and she is very secretive and makes odd decisions at times. I also personally found that I couldn’t relate to her at all – at one point she says she spent over 20 years at home after she was married, and when the children were at school she would read or stare out of the window “and never once felt bored or frustrated”. She also says she has no interests. She is a very difficult character to relate to – I found her quite frustrating and I didn’t really take to her at any point in the book.
Despite this, I really liked the depiction of small town life, with the constant stream of nosy neighbours, and I also liked that Toibin wrote this unusual portrayal of a widow and created quite a unique character. But I finished it really not knowing whether or not I liked the novel as a whole!