Nora Webster By Colm Toibin

Sixteen members together with one new member were welcomed to this month’s meeting. Apologies were received from those unable to attend the evening.  Brenda opened the meeting’s discussion by asking members what they had thought of the book.  Several members initially voiced their struggle to stay focussed in reading the story with what was felt and for them proved to be a fairly boring one too.  It soon became very evident amongst the majority present that these members were not actually alone in their thinking with one even saying it was like watching paint dry – there soon followed many comments such as it was felt the book had a very mundane and unfocussed storyline; was not meaningful enough and generally thought a poor novel with the author disappointingly never quite getting it right from a woman’s perspective. Most agreed she was not a good mother as far as the welfare of her boys, Donal and Connor, were concerned or to a certain extent those of Fiona & Aine her two daughters.

However, one member had found it quite different for her – more as a “personal journey in her life” bringing her attention to many areas she could relate to from her own childhood and upbringing and although sad, she had enjoyed and liked it.

Everyone had found the unfinished “snippets” in the story very frustrating and disjointed. We had the feeling that they had just been put in because the author thought (with the Irish setting and timing of the story) perhaps he should mention: the IRA troubles with a divided Ireland and the joining of a Union in the workplace, but with no follow-through. As too with Nora’s singing and her building friendship with the music teacher Laurie O’Keefe getting ready for the auditions for the Choir?  Her foray into the painting and decorating of her house, causing her to become quite ill with her injuries and even incapacitated? The Gramophone Society members and her friendship with Phyllis. The holiday?  Life where she worked at Gibneys sharing an office with the owner’s daughter Elizabeth? It all amounted to nothing but loose unfinished ends!!

No character stood out for anyone although most would have liked to find out what happened to Donal whilst staying at her Aunt Josie’s house for those 3 years with no real contact from Nora!

So to summarise ………  A disappointing read for members especially as those who had read his previous novel “Brooklyn” where he had proved a worthy award winner. They had expected more of the same. A book which definitely did not fit the promises on the front and back cover and which started so intriguingly. It was a book of no substance,  shallow and disjointed which needed more structure and a greater perception of writing from a female aspect and definitely not meaningful enough  and finally of course the need of those answers to so many unfinished loose ends going absolutely nowhere ! (No sequel please!!)   One of the most positive THUMBS DOWN!

To finish a couple of lovely comments from Members:

“A No-No So-So book!!”  – Thank you Judith

“Too many ingredients – half of these would make a better story.” Thank you Hilary

…So to the recycle bin it was decided to send this one.