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The Master [Paperback]

Colm Toibin
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
RRP: £8.99
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Book Description

21 Jan 2005

In January 1895 Henry James anticipates the opening of his first play, Guy Domville, in London. The production fails, and he returns, chastened and humiliated, to his writing desk. The result is a string of masterpieces, but they are produced at a high personal cost.

In The Master Colm Tóibín captures the exquisite anguish of a man who circulated in the grand parlours and palazzos of Europe, who was astonishingly vibrant and alive in his art, and yet whose attempts at intimacy inevitably failed him and those he tried to love. It is a powerful account of the hazards of putting the life of the mind before affairs of the heart.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (21 Jan 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330485660
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330485661
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 106,599 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Colm Tóibín was born in Ireland in 1955. He is the author of six novels including The Blackwater Lightship, The Master both of which were shortlisted for the Booker Prize and Brooklyn which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Costa Novel Award, and an earlier collection of stories, Mothers and Sons.

Product Description

Review

'In its quiet way, this novel's imaginative truthfulness crosses boundaries and challenges biographers.' -- Anne Chisholm in Sunday Telegraph, November 2004

'Only the quality of execution need be considered: Tóibín's nears perfection' -- The Times, Paperback of the Week

'Tóibín deftly mingles conjecture with fact as he explores a fascinating family background… intriguing' -- Sunday Times

'Unerring poignancy… Tóibín writes with an undemonstrative precision perfectly suited to its subject' -- Guardian

Exquisitely crafted and full of finely nuanced psychological observation. It is also profoundly moving. -- The Independent

‘Toibin makes James seem more human than, for me, Leon Edel’s famous biography ever did.’ -- John Carey, Sunday Times

About the Author

Colm Tóibín was born in Ireland in 1955. He is the author of four other novels, The South, The Heather Blazing, The Story of the Night and The Blackwater Lightship, which was shortlisted for the 1999 Booker Prize. His non-fiction includes Bad Blood, Homage to Barcelona and The Sign of the Cross. His work has been translated into seventeen languages. He lives in Dublin.

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Sometimes in the night he dreamed about the dead-familiar faces and the others, half-forgotten ones, fleetingly summoned up. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Focusing on the life of Henry James, Colm Toibin's The Master goes beyond the usual "novelization" of someone's biography. Toibin has done a tremendous amount of research and has obviously read everything James has written, but he has so distilled this information that he actually recreates Henry James. Most remarkably, he does this while using the third person point of view to tell the story, preserving the objective tone but bringing forth characters and events so vibrant with life that Toibin's James is the man we know from his novels, letters, and journals.
When the novel opens in 1895, James's play, Guy Domville, has been booed on its opening night. James, now fifty-two, has hoped for a career as a playwright, believing success on stage will put an end to "his long solitary days" and allow him to spend more time among actors, whom he finds fascinating. Described as "a great stranger...observing the world as a mere watcher from the window," James is a lonely, solitary figure throughout the novel, a man unable to form a committed relationship with anyone, either male or female, sometimes wanting companionship but not closeness, and always needing solitude to work. Through flashbacks, Toibin shows how James's early upbringing may have been partly responsible for his feelings of isolation.
When James begins writing his stories and novels, he draws inspiration from the people he knows best and the events which have affected their lives and his own. His sister Alice is the model for a child in The Turn of the Screw, his cousin Minny Temple is the inspiration for several of his most important female characters-in "Poor Richard," Daisy Miller, and Portrait of a Lady--and his brother Wilky's wounds in the Civil War provide James with details he includes in other stories.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I want to live, live like others live." 2 Jun 2004
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Henry James (1843 – 1916) was the first American writer to envision his vocation in global terms. He desired to be a literary master, but his recognition, however, did not come into its glory until the time between the world wars. The delicate, scrupulous, The Master, set during the four years of his life from January 1895 to October 1899, so beautifully portrays a period of melancholy, loneliness and longing, that one cannot help but be moved by James' life of self-imposed confinement.
Complex and emotional, the narrative, at once, centers on James' life in England, where he reflects, with a sense of wistful regret, on his childhood growing up in Newport and Boston, where ideas were sacred, second only to good manners, and where there was a pull between "an ordered community who knew god and an idealism." Henry's father was an unconventional independently wealthy philosopher and religiously imaginative. Henrys older brother William was the first American psychologist of notable status and was also a very astute and influential philosopher. Consequently, Henry and his siblings were constantly exposed to museums, libraries, theaters and art galleries. Henry's time abroad gave him a mastery of the French language suitable enough to get him started in the study of its literature.
Toibin's focuses on a period called "the treacherous years" when as the nineteenth century waned, and the influence of Victorianism diminished, the giant of American letters, then in his 50s, was trying to reinvent himself as a playwright. James did not feel at home in America, Europe, his profession, or his own skin.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Life versus art 23 April 2005
By jfp2006
Format:Paperback
First impressions of "The Master" were of how obviously different it was from the writer's other Booker short-listed work, "The Blackwater Lightship", the only other of his novels I have so far read.
Where the previous novel was set in contemporary Ireland, here we are taken back in time to the end of the nineteenth century, and a fictionalised rendering of a period spanning some five years in the life of the American writer Henry James. As the century draws to its close and James advances through his middle years, it is very clearly a time for taking stock, for both retrospection and introspection.
The first important event in the novel is the painful, humiliating failure of James's incursion into writing for the London theatre, "Guy Domville", a failure counterpointed against the resounding triumph of Oscar Wilde's "An Ideal Husband" - while the opening words of the novel are "Sometimes in the night he dreamed about the dead..." The tone is thus set for a novel about failure, regret, and frustrated hopes. Thereafter actual events play a secondary role: there is no plot, but rather a series of episodes from James's life, episodes whose essentially inconclusive nature gradually builds up an impression of the emptiness at the heart of that life. Where Wilde is quoted as saying he had put his genius into his life and only his talent into his work, it becomes slowly and painfully apparent that James has so far channeled everything into his work, with the result that a distressing void has opened up in his emotional life.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
I loved the quietness of this book: the feel you get of Henry James' sensibility. It is a thoughtful translation.
Published 3 months ago by Oak
5.0 out of 5 stars A good book
Again another good book which I would recommend to you, buy it read, I am sure you will enjoy it .
Published 7 months ago by Raymond Groutage
3.0 out of 5 stars Dearest silence
From page 25 to page 359 ; Henry (James) " stood coldly ... he still did not speak... he did not speak and was careful to make no gesture .... he said nothing .. Read more
Published 21 months ago by french reader
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, but don't chance it if you haven't read Henry...
I don't want to put anyone off unduly, or slight an otherwise fine novel, but I'm hard pressed to know what people will make of this book if they don't know a)much about Henry... Read more
Published on 18 July 2011 by Cardew Robinson
5.0 out of 5 stars The Master
Toibin's prose reads like poetry; there's a gentle rhythm to everything, and each word is painstakingly chosen. Read more
Published on 21 Mar 2011 by pk1225
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful insight into the mind and manners of novelist Henry James
A beautiful, pellucid novel that gets into the very particular mind, sad and anaemic heart of Henry James. Read more
Published on 2 Dec 2010 by bobbygw
5.0 out of 5 stars Agreat read
Ii think this was extremely provocative and well written .the beginning was immensely gripping and the interest aroused sustained throughout.
Published on 18 Sep 2010 by Sally Black
2.0 out of 5 stars an imaginative feat, BUT...
One of the 1001 books you must read before you die (international edition) but one which I'd prefer to have given a miss to. Read more
Published on 13 Oct 2009 by William Jordan
5.0 out of 5 stars Portrait of a writer
In The Master, Colm Toibin offers the reader a style and content quite different from his other novels. Read more
Published on 25 Jun 2009 by Philip Spires
5.0 out of 5 stars A rewarding read.
I loved this book. Henry James really comes alive and although it is a novel about a major literary figure it is not heavy going, but flows along beautifully. Read more
Published on 4 Dec 2007 by Louise Ward
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