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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
The Master by Colm Tóibín 
15th-May-2006 09:32 am
So. Even I'M ready with this month's book club selection. What's your excuse?

Conversation at bibliobibules will begin as soon as I can post the first discussion starter/question. (If you have any specific topics or directions you'd like to cover, let me know.)

Tóibín, Colm. The Master. 2004. New York: Scribner, 2005.
Summary: Follows the life of the American expatriate novelist Henry James as he enters middle life, suffers the failure of his play, finds a homestead in England, and reflects upon a life no so much lived as observed.
Comments: Whenever I approach Irish fiction these days, I always expect, bracing myself for the impact, to see the author channeling James Joyce. Tóibín will have none of it as he attempts to bring James to life, and if he's channeling anyone's style, it's that high-powered observational lens of James himself--though, interestingly, I thought Tóibín's elegant but almost workman prose was not fitted to the task. He used to be a journalist. Different world. But suffice to say I like Tóibín's writing more. I was surprised, actually, by how much of Ireland did in fact manage to find its way into the novel; James visits Ireland, which gives him the opportunity to mull over English-Irish relations, James's play is replaced by Irishman Oscar Wilde's, which gives the author the opportunity to ruminate on his style and eventual sodomy trial, and James himself is an Irish-American (which I didn't know). Not so good things: The cookie-cutter representations of women and especially female children were a bit cringeworthy, and I've no innate interest whatsoever in expatriate Anglo-American upper class society OR the origins of James's characters and novel plots. This novel did have some beautiful recurring images about windows that almost made the rest worth it, namely of James looking through them and psychologically and physically unable to cross to the other side. Otherwise, a diverting portrait of an emotionally and sexually blocked life whose only outlet is writing about it.
Notes: trade paperback, 1st printing
Rating: 7/10 - A lovely read (though not, alas, a masterpiece) even if you do not like Henry James.
15th-May-2006 01:43 pm (UTC)
So. Even I'M ready with this month's book club selection. What's your excuse?

VARF. ^_^ I'm not quite finished, because it's taking rather more attention than my normal reading fare, and I've been even shorter on attention than I've been on time. June is going to be tricky, too, but I should be able to manage.

Hopefully, I'll finish up The Master no later than tomorrow evening.
15th-May-2006 02:20 pm (UTC)
wow, that cover is beautiful.
I only got the paperback yellow one.
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15th-May-2006 03:15 pm (UTC)
I saw this black hardcover one too. ^^
With this sorta 18th century portrait on it.
15th-May-2006 04:12 pm (UTC)
*curious* Which "yellow one" are you talking about? The American hardcover edition is kind of yellow...
15th-May-2006 04:18 pm (UTC)
wow. that's just as pretty
but I don't have that American edition.
I think I might have UK or something o_O;;;
(searching for the cover is kinda hard though...)
15th-May-2006 04:21 pm (UTC)
Hmm. *shuffles over to Amazon.uk* This one?

Yeah. It's not as pretty as either of the American editions' covers. Getting back to my theory that British books are ugly...
15th-May-2006 04:22 pm (UTC)
Ahh! that one!
yes. :(
(Deleted comment)
15th-May-2006 04:30 pm (UTC)
I think that of the three covers I've cut and pasted, the American trade paperback edition fits the novel itself the best. (James looking out a window, and all...)
15th-May-2006 05:09 pm (UTC)
This novel did have some beautiful recurring images about windows that almost made the rest worth it

Windows? Hokay, so there's something I missed completely ^^;;; I was actually surprised how little Ireland figured in too ^^ I did, however, get the same cover as you ^_^;
15th-May-2006 08:29 pm (UTC)
Try rereading the last paragraph, for starters. ^_~
15th-May-2006 09:08 pm (UTC)
Well I caught it in the last paragraph, since I read the final chapter after that comment ^_^;;; But the only other window scene that comes to mind is the window Constance dove out of..... or was that a balcony ^^;;
15th-May-2006 09:11 pm (UTC)
It was a balcony, I think.

There's also the scene in the beginning where James is waiting all night looking up at the window of some guy he's infatuated with but does not approach.

Err...so you didn't know Henry James was a real person. Reading the short summary from the publisher before starting might help. ^_~ Perhaps in the future I'll say something brief about the selection when the month begins...
15th-May-2006 09:31 pm (UTC)
Well the name sounded familiar, but those two names are also kind of common ^^ I recognized a bunch of the other names he was throwing in though, so that’s when I decided to check the name ^_^;

Funny though, I wouldn’t even have expected a novelist to be using actual people as characters.. It did strike me as kind of high end fan fiction ^^;
15th-May-2006 10:33 pm (UTC)
So you never read Henry James in high school?

Plenty of historical writers use actual people as characters. Hey, Shakespeare did! ^_~ Using a real-life novelist as the protagonist of a fictional novel seems to be the en vogue thing right now, though--Michael Cunningham's The Hours comes to mind.
15th-May-2006 10:47 pm (UTC)
Well, I wouldn’t swear that he wasn’t assigned, but did I read him? No.. ^_^;;

Michael Cunningham's The Hours comes to mind.

Oh of course! ^_^;;;; I read one not to long ago which featured fictional characters meeting a lot of real historical figures.. It was, kind of annoying really...
15th-May-2006 10:49 pm (UTC)
*shrugs* I never read Henry James in high school, either. Other English classes did Portrait of a Lady, but we, err, did Dubliners or something. ^^;;

Michael Cunningham's The Hours comes to mind.
Oh of course! ^_^;;;;

*snickers* MY mind, that, is, not yours I suspect. :P
31st-May-2006 07:15 pm (UTC)
Review archived.
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