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Genes Book Club - Nora Webster reviews

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GenesBookClub Advisor Report 12 Feb 2015 12:24

Hi everyone,

To those of you who were selected to receive a free copy of Nora Webster, we hope you enjoy reading it and would love to hear what you think.

Take a look these discussion questions, and post your views.

1. The novel opens with Nora discussing her intrusive visitors with her neighbor Tom O’Connor. How does this set the tone for Nora Webster? What is your first impression of Nora?

2. What motivates Nora to sell the house in Cush? Is she just taking advantage of Jack Lacey’s offer, or is it more emotional? Should she have consulted the children?

3. When Nora visits Josie to discuss Donal and Conor, Josie asks Nora, “Did you think they would come home unchanged?” What did Nora expect? Was it realistic? Is Josie being fair when she points out that Nora never called or visited the boys?

4. For her memory card for Maurice, Nora chooses “Too young to die, they say. Too young? No, rather he is blessed in being so young thus to be made swiftly an immortal. He has escaped the tremulous hands of age” .Why do Jim and Margaret dislike it? Why does Nora insist on it?

5. When Nora gets her “fashionable cut” from Bernie, her enthusiasm turns to dismay, and she thinks that “anyone who saw her on the way home would think that she had lost her mind”. Why does Nora react this way? Sometimes she seems to worry about what others think. Sometimes she is defiant. Where else does she second-guess her choices?

6. When Nora meets with William and Peggy Gibney to discuss working for them, she thinks of how Peggy and Francie Kavanaugh’s lives have changed since Nora first worked at Gibney’s. Is Nora comparing herself to them? Do either of them have anything that Nora wants?

7. On a beach trip with her sons. Nora wonders about having never thought about whether the boys are happy or not. “Being with Donal sometimes made her afraid, but being with Conor could make her even more afraid, afraid for his innocence, his sweet loyalty, his open need to be taken care of.” Why does Nora feel this way?

8. After Francie cuts up Nora’s folders and Nora storms out of Gibney’s, unsure if she’ll return, why does she go to the sea at Keatings’? What effect does Sister Thomas have on Nora?

9. When Nora decides to join the union meeting, she reflects, “Perhaps it was not wise. . . . But it pleased her to be grateful to no one”. Where does this need to be unbeholden come from?

10. Why does Donal become so engrossed in photography? Nora thinks he wouldn’t have if Maurice had lived. How are his camera and Margaret’s gift of a darkroom a reaction to his father’s death?

11. Laurie tells Nora, “You kept [your singing] to yourself. You saved it up”. Is Laurie right? Why would Nora do that?

13. What is it about Josie that allows Nora to turn to her after she struggles with her pain and insomnia? Is it the same thing that caused her to send the boys to Josie when Maurice was dying? What are the differences and similarities between these two episodes?

14. Throughout the story, family members make plans and keep secrets from Nora—about Una’s engagement, Donal’s darkroom, Josie’s offer of a trip to Spain, Fiona’s worry that Nora is too interested in Paul Whitney, and Donal’s decision to go to boarding school. Why do they do this?

15. When the British Embassy in Dublin is burned, are they right to panic over Aine? Is Nora correct that they all have a “lingering unease” that can be triggered by any crisis?

16. Does Maurice really appear to Nora or is it a dream? What does it mean?

17. Why does Nora finally burn Maurice’s letters and let her sisters take his clothes away?

18. Nora thinks that no one notices her, but we see Mick Sinnott invite her to the union meeting, Phyllis take her to the quiz, Laurie give her voice lessons, and Dan Bolger help her fix up her house. Phyllis tells her, “After all you’ve been through, everyone thinks you are . . . Well, dignified”. Is Phyllis right? Why doesn’t Nora see this?

19. Nora Webster is bold and independent, fierce and sympathetic at the same time. Does she remind you of other literary heroines? Which ones, and how so?


AnninGlos Report 12 Feb 2015 14:59

Goodness that is going to be a long review!!!


AnninGlos Report 12 Feb 2015 15:10

I have made a note of the questions and will endeavour to answer them, however to me, the number of questions makes it rather like sitting an exam. I think, if this is how Penguin want to play it in future I will not be applying for the books.It reminds me of studying for A level literature!! I prefer to read and enjoy (or otherwise) the books. :-)


GenesBookClub Advisor Report 12 Feb 2015 16:41

There are rather a lot! Please do not feel as though you need to answer all of the questions.

Enjoy the book!


AnninGlos Report 12 Feb 2015 17:30

Lol I hope I do. :-D


Anotheranninglos Report 21 Feb 2015 12:20

How long (normally) does it take for the book to arrive. I have been told that I am being sent one but hasnt arrived yet.



AnninGlos Report 21 Feb 2015 13:44

Not arrived yet, sometimes it is quick, sometimes a few weeks, it depends on Penguin.


Winifred Report 21 Feb 2015 13:55

I have just received Etta and Otto and Elizabeth is Missing. So I have a bit of catching up to do. It will keep me out of trouble anyway lol Enjoy reading everyone.....I do xx


TeresainWirral Report 24 Feb 2015 17:48

Has anyone received their book yet?


Anotheranninglos Report 25 Feb 2015 17:45

No not yet.


GenesBookClub Advisor Report 26 Feb 2015 10:32

Hi everyone,

There has been a delay with dispatch, but your books will be arriving from Penguin soon.


Book club


AnninGlos Report 2 Mar 2015 17:38

Ah thank you, wondered what had happened to it.


belladonna Report 3 Mar 2015 10:17

haad been selected for the Feb book, but have not got it yet!!!??


GenesBookClub Advisor Report 10 Mar 2015 15:15

Hi belladonna,

Please send us a message if you are still waiting for your book.


Book club


Anotheranninglos Report 10 Mar 2015 17:17

Mine arrived today.



AnninGlos Report 11 Mar 2015 16:29

Yes received mine yesterday as well. :-) :-) :-)


Jan Report 12 Mar 2015 19:22

Mine arrived yesterday! :-)


AnninGlos Report 20 Mar 2015 15:49

Review for GR Nora Webster by Colm Toibin

Having a close relative in the situation of being left a fairly young widow, I was not sure if this was the book for me. However, it is very well written with insight into Nora's situation. Nora seems unaware of just how her husband's death has affected her young sons, or how abandoning them to the care of her aunt while Maurice was dying affected them as well.

Gradually she realises that she has a life to lead, one that can be decided entirely by her. Sometimes when people are married they become as one person, with the strongest personality making all the decisions for both. I got the impression that this is what happened with Nora and Maurice and now she has to learn to make her own decisions. This situation is not helped by all the friends and family who seem to want to 'help' her make decisions now she doesn't have Maurice.
And who don't realise that her actions are the result of her grief for her much loved husband.

I felt I was only just beginning to actually know Nora when the story ended and I wanted to know more. Did she sing in the choir? Did she get Donal's stammer sorted?

But it was a good read, different to books I normally read, a well written strong story about grief and how long it takes to get through it. I have not rad anything by this author before so will look out for his other books.


Patricia Report 22 Mar 2015 15:49

Nora Webster by Colm Toibin.
This is the best book I have read for a long time. I am impressed that it is convincingly written from the point of view of a woman by a man.
It is an account of Nora Webster's life in the three years after her husband's death. They have been happily married with four children, two still at school.
At first Nora seems unable to help her children much in their grief - she seems too overwhelmed by her own loss and the sudden practical difficulties she faces.
Nora is never described as being heartbroken or lost but this is obvious from the sometimes unpredictable way in which she reacts to her family and friends who are trying to help her and her family.
All is not doom and gloom however. There are sometimes amusing incidents and Nora herself sometimes finds herself laughing at things that happen. Also she has a supportive family and friends in the community in which she and her husband have lived all their lives.
There are compensations for Nora in being alone. Her personality gradually flowers with such things as her music and her interest in improving the house to her own taste while still remembering what she has lost in her happy marriage to Maurice.
The crisis brought on when Nora strains her arms and chest and cannot sleep is a bit like the crisis in a fever. Everything seems to get on top of her and under the influence of strong painkillers she even thinks that she sees Maurice. Once she comes through that there is the feeling that she will overcome in the end even though she still faces difficulties.
I am grateful to have been introduced to the brilliant writing of Colm Toibin in this book and will look for others.


Jan Report 28 Mar 2015 21:43

I found this book quite slow to begin with and I couldn't take to Nora. I felt sorry for her children. Gradually though, the more I found out about her, I gradually warmed to her. By the end of the book I really liked this family and was glad that I'd received a copy of the book. Thank you. :-)