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 printingRating
- A lovely read (though not, alas, a masterpiece) even if you do not like Henry James.