There are some books that rack up the tension and have you on the edge of your seat as you are compelled to keep turning the pages to find out what happens.
Nora Webster is not that sort of book. However, as much as I love the former there is also a place in the book world for the quieter, more observational stories. This latest book by Colm Tóibín falls into the category. It follows the eponymous Nora, a young widow in Enniscorthy, County Wexford in Ireland as she adjusts to her life without her husband and with two young sons and two elder daughters. As I said previously this isn't a book of high tension, Nora deciding whether to buy a record player or join a union is about as exciting as it gets. Yet it's still a compelling read, a beautifully observed character study of a woman dealing with the obvious loneliness, fear and grief while having to cope with more practical matters too, financial insecurity, her children's problems, the watchful eyes of her family and the local town. Nora is a flawed character, strong yet stubborn, ready to stand up for her children yet frequently, lost as she is in her own grief, blind to their needs. She is often stifled by the town she lives in, where everybody knows everybody else's histories but nevertheless still often reliant on this close community albeit at times begrudgingly. The story covers a few years as gradually Nora comes to terms with her loss and makes peace with her past, finding solace in music and singing. Set against a backdrop of an Ireland going through political upheaval, the scandal of Charles Haughey being implicated in the Arms Crisis while in Northern Ireland, Bloody Sunday politicises people both sides of the border, Nora Webster is a deeply evocative, insightful and honest novel which proves you don't always need high drama to create a memorable and touching read.
My thanks to the author and publishers for my copy received through NetGalley in return for my honest review.
Nora Webster is published in the UK by Penguin.