Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín

bookshelves: lit-richer, britain-ireland, published-2014, wexford, period-piece, net-galley, e-book, summer-2014, bellybutton-mining, aga-saga, families, lifestyles-deathstyles, politics, newtome-author

Read from July 15 to 18, 2014

 

Description: It is the late 1960s in Ireland. Nora Webster is living in a small town, looking after her four children, trying to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. She is fiercely intelligent, at times difficult and impatient, at times kind, but she is trapped by her circumstances, and waiting for any chance which will lift her beyond them.

Colm Tóibín’s Nora is a character as resonant as Anna Karenina or Madame Bovary and Nora Webster is a novel that illuminates our own lives in a way that is rare in literature. Its humanity and compassion forge an unforgettable reading experience.

Colm Tóibín was born in Enniscorthy in 1955. He is the author of seven other novels, including The Blackwater Lightship, The Master and The Testament of Mary, all three of which were nominated for the Booker Prize, and Brooklyn, which won the Costa Novel Award. He has also published two collections of stories and many works of non-fiction. He lives in Dublin.

Opening: ‘You must be fed up of them. Will they never stop coming?’ Tom O’Connor, her neighbour, stood at his front door and looked at her.
‘I know,’ she said.
‘Just don’t answer the door. That’s what I’d do.’
Nora closed the garden gate.

A quiet and intense character study, beautifully written and utterly compelling as I sit in my ‘Babette’s Feast’ of a rented cottage far from civilisation, with the Danish mist swirling in the twilight; close by, the swish and babble of small waves on the shore. However, not everyone will have the pleasure of being in such an evocative atmosphere when they crack this one open and, right there at that point, they will ask for more of a story than is offered here.

No need go into the storyline, there is enough of that in the description, yet I can tell you the atmosphere built up over even the smallest of encounters is deliciously unsettling, claustrophobic and brittle, and you will want to hug those two boys to your chest until they relax their pent up worries within the safety of encircling arms. Preposterous as it sounds in this Wexford slice of life on the tragic side of the track, there are some amusing parts where you find yourself smiling along with the schadenfreude and oneupmanship on display: no one here is unflawed, and that includes the titular persona.

By the end and against the back drop of the troubles there is real character growth in all the players involved, and some of these transitions leave their marks, which is the way of life; things have a way of working out. Three and a half reduced-price shop-display turntables, upped to four because I was thoroughly anxious for the wellbeing of the family.

Today, 18th July 2014, ‘Nora Webster’ is number thirty three on the listopia Man Booker Prize Eligible 2014 and doesn’t look the strongest Irish contender. We shall see next week, 23rd July, just which make it onto the longlist.

Doubling Back by Linda Cracknell

bookshelves: spring-2014, afr-kenya, britain-scotland, nonfiction, published-2014, radio-4, bellybutton-mining, bettie-s-law-of-excitement-lost, fraudio, next, snoozefest

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Read on May 29, 2014

 

BOTW

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b044jbjf

Description: A beautiful and moving memoir where the author retraces walks undertaken by others, from the Highlands of Scotland to the Swiss Alps and Kenya.

In 1952 Linda Cracknell’s father embarked on a hike through the Swiss Alps. Fifty years later Linda retraces that fateful journey, following the trail of the man she barely knew. This collection of walking tales takes its theme from that pilgrimage. The walks trace the contours of history, following writers, relations and retreading ways across mountains, valleys and coasts formerly trodden by drovers, saints and adventurers. Each walk is about the reaffirming of memories, beliefs and emotions, and especially of the connection that one can have with the past through particular places.

Episode 1: Dancing, Kicking Up Her Legs: The author visits a hillside above Loch Ness following in the footsteps of the Scottish novelist, Jessie Kesson.

Episode 2: Baring Our Soles: While walking barefoot through Kenya, the author discovers the connection between feet and politics.

Episode 3: In His Footsteps: Today, Linda bravely retraces the Alpine ascent made by her father in 1952 and in doing so discovers some truths about the past and about her relationship with her lost father.

Episode 4: The Heaven Above and the Road Below: Linda sets out to walk from her front door to the Isle of Skye and, in doing so, uncovers memories of the past and finds inspiration for the future

Episode 5: Walking Home: Linda Cracknell looks to the future as she walks the pilgrimage route of St Cuthbert’s Way between Scotland and England and as she follows her own footsteps around her home town of Aberfeldy in Perthshire.

I don’t know so much, when first-worlders aren’t donning Dr Martens and buddhist robes, they are swanning around belly-button-mining for yet another sub-par travel snooze-fest. BBC BOTW last week was made of the same paltry fayre: Stringer: A Reporter’s Journey in the Congo

Sharpen up BBC book selectors!

Professor Andersen’s Night by Dag Solstad

bookshelves: one-penny-wonder, paper-read, hardback, midlife-crisis, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, norway, spring-2013, bellybutton-mining, re-visit-2014, re-read, published-1996, spring-2014, under-500-ratings, oslo, trondheim, newtome-author, feckless-procrastination, food-glorious-food, lit-crit, politics, philosophy

Read from April 26, 2013 to May 06, 2014


First time around I abandoned this but I have been persuaded to give it another try: REBOOT 2014:

Description: An existential murder story. A master of Norwegian literature critiques contemporary society with wry wit.

It is Christmas Eve, and 55-year-old Professor Pål Andersen is alone, drinking coffee and cognac in his living room. Lost in thought, he looks out of the window and sees a man strangle a woman in the apartment across the street.

Professor Andersen fails to report the crime. The days pass, and he becomes paralysed by indecision. Desperate for respite, the professor sets off to a local sushi bar, only to find himself face to face with the murderer.

Professor Andersen’s Night is an unsettling yet highly entertaining novel of apathy, rebellion and morality. In flinty prose, Solstad presents an uncomfortable question: would we, like his cerebral protagonist, do nothing?

Discarded from Tower Hamlets Libraries
Translation by Agnes Scott Langeland

Opening: It was Christmas Eve and Professor Andersen had a Christmas tree in the living room. He stared at it. ‘Well, I must say,’ he thought.

Trondheim Cathedral

A wooly, waffley story of three parts: politics and dinner; dither and literary criticism; then sushi with philosophy for dessert.

At least I made it to the end this time, however I do feel that Solstad is not the writer for me.