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Nora Webster

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I thought at first of writing the book from my own perspective, rather than my mother's, but when I tried to set some of that down, I found there was nothing, or not enough for a novel. It was as though the experience had hollowed me out and was, from my perspective, too filled with silence and distance for me to be able to harness it for a novel's purposes. For a decade I thought about the book at some point every day. I worked out a structure. Slowly, the character of Nora Webster herself began to emerge for me more clearly. I wanted her to be both brave and difficult, to be someone fiercely loyal to her children when there was a crisis, but oddly nonchalant in the ordinary course of events. Her sisters were afraid of her. There is a sense of her as trapped by her circumstances, in a small town.

The novelists have become characters in their own books. By the urgency of the tone, they make clear, however, that, in the aftermath of loss, nothing they can invent compares to it. And that, since they are writers, what happened needs to be written down so that it can be known and shared and understood, so that it can lose its incoherence. And so that they, in their powerlessness and helplessness, can at least still do this, can at least write down what it was like.Forgotten the title or the author of a book? Our BookSleuth is specially designed for you. Visit BookSleuth

I noticed that there was very little fiction written from the point of view of a widow. I found two short stories about being a widow – “Happiness” and “In the Middle of the Fields” – by the Irish writer Mary Lavin, whom I had known when I was a student in Dublin, helpful, enabling. I found something also in the last section of Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks that interested me – the use of music as a way to inhabit loss, or to allow loss to have its full weight. I remembered my mother, who had very little money, getting a stereo and gradually buying classical LPs. There was one record that she played over and over – a recording of Beethoven’s Archduke Trio with Jacqueline du Pré, Daniel Barenboim and Pinchas Zukerman. I remember the sleeve of the album with a photograph of all three players. I found a recording of it and began to play it.Morales, Macey (8 April 2015). "ALA unveils shortlist for 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction". American Library Association . Retrieved 7 January 2022. But I must have sat up when I came to this passage in Lavin's story "Happiness": "When Father went to hospital Mother went with him and stayed in a small hotel across the street so she could be with him all day from early to late. 'Because it was so awful for him, being in Dublin,' she said. 'You have no idea how he hated it.' Maybe I thought this would be in other books in the future – such a precise image of what had happened to us – but I never found it again. It was only there. It is in the novel I have written, Nora Webster, but it took me a long time to find a dramatic form for those words.

Ott, Bill (6 April 2015). "Shortlist Announced for the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Fiction and Nonfiction". Booklist . Retrieved 7 January 2022. In Lavin's stories about solitude and widowhood, her characters live in a twilight time. They barely manage. One of her stories about grief and its aftermath, controlled grief, is "In the Middle of the Fields". In the first sentence, she establishes that her heroine is alone in an isolated rural place. And then the next sentence reads: "And yet she was less lonely for him here in Meath than elsewhere."In plain and unsentimental prose, Toibin gives us the story of a woman, Nora Webster, whose husband of many years has died. Leaving her alone, with two younger boys and two older daughters, she must find her way through life for herself and her children.

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