23 October 2014

Review and Giveaway: Nora Webster by Colm Toibin

Don't you love it when you discover a book you want to recommend to everyone you meet? When I was offered the chance to read Colm Tóibín's newest novel, Nora Webster, I said yes because I usually like novels set in Ireland, especially those that take place in the late 1960s, as the Troubles began.

As soon as I started reading the book, I realized I had stumbled across a moving, thoughtful character study with broad appeal. By the time I finished, Nora Webster had earned a place on my list of best books for 2014.

On the surface, Nora Webster is about a forty-year-old Irish-Catholic woman who finds herself widowed too young with four children who still need parenting. On deeper levels, however, Tóibín explores independence, the Church, and need for people to find their own path.

Right from the start, Tóibín masterfully creates a fog of mourning around Nora, letting us experience a feeling that is often difficult to describe. As in real life, Nora reengages only slowly and is, of course, not quite the same person she was when her only concerns were being a wife and mother. Nora is a complicated person who can sometimes seem cold or weak. But the truth is she's simply struggling to figure out who she really is, now that she's completely in charge of herself for perhaps the first time in her life. Nora Webster is an immensely personal and inner examination of one woman's journey through grief.

The biggest thorns in Nora's side are all the well-meaning (or are they controlling?) friends and family (and even a nun), who think they know just what the widow needs. What she really needs is the privacy, space, and time to handle things in her own way. Her other issue is her kids. The girls are older and can take care of themselves, but the younger boys are a mystery to her. Having grown up with a nosy and opinionated mother, Nora does her best to stay out of her children's way. But, she wonders, is she too distant? Yet she cannot bring herself to pry.

Running throughout the novel are cultural and historical details that bring a richness to Nora Webster. Besides touching on the more obvious concerns that Nora shares with all women of her generation, Tóibín makes it clear that the Webster family is not living in isolation. The Church and small-town dynamics are forces to be reckoned with in Nora's Ireland, and the rise of the IRA and the Troubles are on everyone's mind.

Over the course of three years--from her husband's death to the end of the book--the world is beginning to shift. Nora is adjusting to being single, radical Catholic groups are becoming violent, Americans have walked on the moon, and the Webster children are finding their paths. Colm Tóibín's beautifully crafted novel is a testament to the importance of being true to oneself, even (or especially) during times of great change.

The Giveaway: Thanks to Simon & Schuster, I'm happy to be able to offer two of my readers with a U.S. mailing address a copy of Colm Tóibín's Nora Webster. All you have to do to be entered for a chance to win is to fill out the form. I'll pick a winner via random number generator on November 3. Once the winner has been confirmed, I'll erase all personal information from my computer. Good luck!

More Information and Opportunities: For more on Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín, be sure to visit the Simon & Schuster website, where you can read an excerpt, check out other reviews, listen to a sample of the audiobook, and download the reading group guide.

For more great content from Simon & Schuster and to be among the first to learn about new books and blogging opportunities, join Simon & Schuster Insiders. This program is geared to book lovers who like to help spread the word about good reads. To join in the fun, click the link and be sure to search for #simoninsiders on all your social media.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Simon & Schuster. All thoughts and words are completely my own and reflect my honest opinion. #simoninsiders

Simon & Schuster / Scribner, 2014
ISBN-13: 9781439138335
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


JoAnn 10/23/14, 7:35 AM  

I love Toibin's writing and can't wait to read this novel! Thanks for the giveaway.

Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 10/23/14, 8:13 AM  

I've never read Toibin, but have seen this novel around a lot lately. I wasn't sure if it was for me with the whole grief theme, but sounds like I should give it a shot!

Melissa (Avid Reader) 10/23/14, 8:51 AM  

I loved his novel Brooklyn and have been curious about this one. I'm a sucker for an Ireland setting!

Jackie Mc Guinness 10/23/14, 8:54 AM  

As an Irish born woman I love Toibin's books so I am looking forward to reading this one.

bermudaonion 10/23/14, 8:58 AM  

I became fascinated with The Troubles a few years ago after we visited Northern Ireland. This book sounds amazing! Thanks for the giveaway.

rhapsodyinbooks 10/23/14, 9:07 AM  

Sounds like it could be kind of depressing!

Beth Hoffman 10/23/14, 10:09 AM  

If it's earned a place in your best reads of 2014, then I must read it, too!

Vicki 10/23/14, 1:17 PM  

My mother was Irish, so this book interests me.

OnDBookshelf 10/23/14, 5:05 PM  

Sounds like my kind of book. I love character studies. Adding it to my list.

(Diane) bookchickdi 10/23/14, 9:34 PM  

I loved this book too, it's one of my 2014 favorites as well. Great review!

Katherine P 10/23/14, 9:59 PM  

I haven't heard of this author but I'm always drawn to books set in Ireland. This sounds like a lovely book. Thanks for sharing! Definitely sounds TBR worthy!

Leila @ Readers' Oasis 10/23/14, 11:11 PM  

Thanks for this review. I've been waiting for some bloggers' opinions on it--and it does sound excellent. Another one to add to the list!

Anita LeBeau 10/24/14, 1:35 AM  

I really want to read this one. I missed the chance to get an early copy. Drat. Thanks for the giveaway!

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