Nora is a gentle, insightful interior journey. Told entirely through Nora’s eyes, we experience her feelings of grief and loss after the death of her husband.
We feel her isolation, her confusion & her ‘otherness’ as she tries to come to terms with her new world order.
We see her struggle to (re)connect with her four children, her sisters and aunt. We see her manage the family finances, go back to work, start singing lessons and redecorate. Slowly signs of independence and enjoying her new-found freedoms begin to creep in. But there’s always a catch – missing Maurice.
Missing their old life together, missing his comforting presence, their conversations, their easiness together, the sharing of a life.
The back of the book hints at “great moral ambiguity“. I will need a reread to tease out these subtleties I think.
Nora has problematic relationships with pretty much everyone around her, but we only ever see and hear her perspective. Initially, we’re drawn into feeling sympathy and empathy for her grief and loss, but as the story progresses we realise there are unspoken ‘issues’. Perhaps her self-absorption after Maurice’s death is not just a response to grief, but a long time pattern of behaviour?
There is so much silence in this story, so much left unsaid, so much to read between the lines.
I grew up in sunny Australia in a working class Protestant family, but I know that coldness. I know that silence. Families do that to each other. They keep each other at arm’s length, they keep secrets, they protect their privacy and they leave a lot of things unsaid…for all kinds of reasons. People really do walk on eggshells around family members for fear of their emotional response.
Nora Webster was a heart-breakingly, tender, disturbing read. I for one will be reading much more Colm Tóibin.