This is a sensitive, finely drawn portrait of Henry James, "The Master". The author "lifts the veil" on what it may mean to be a writer of genius, that is someone whose gift surpasses his ability to live life. Our book group all thought it was amazing. I'm inspired to read the rest of James.
This portrait of Henry James is one of the writer-as-observer, and contains many passages of would-be-conflict that make you grit your teeth in anticipation of the subject's response.
A compelling example of American life in literature, being the intellectual history of the James family focusing on Henry and his writing with forays into William's philosophical wonderings and the strengths of their sister Alice.
"The Master" is Henry James, and Colm Toibin imagines his life, showing him leaving his own country to live in London, Paris and Rome among the artistic elite of the era. His novels demonstrate James' mastery of psychological insight, but in his private life, his attempts at the intimacy of friendship or love result in shipwreck on the rocky coast of his need for privacy. The result is a lonely life. Toibin's own insight into James is worthy of "The Master" himself. A thoroughly good read,a touching and sad portrait of genius.
Superb fictional portrait of Henry James. Really delves into the heart and mind of the man. Toibin also demonstrates used observations of his acquaintances as material for his novels.
This historical novel is an extrodinary glimpse into the life of Henry James, his era and the people who were not only significant in his life but the world at large.
Winner of the Lambda Award for Best Novel fo 2004.
From Publishers Weekly
It's a bold writer indeed who dares to put himself inside the mind of novelist Henry James, but that is what Tóibín, highly talented Irish author of The Heather Blazing and The Blackwater Lightship, has ventured here, with a remarkable degree of success. The book is a fictionalized study, based on many biographical materials and family accounts, of the novelist's interior life from the moment in London in 1895 when James's hope to succeed in the theater rather than on the printed page was eclipsed by the towering success of his younger contemporary Oscar Wilde. Thereafter the book ranges seamlessly back and forth over James's life, from his memories of his prominent Brahmin family in the States-including the suicide of his father and the tragic early death of his troubled sister Alice-to his settling in England, in a cherished house of his own choosing in Rye. Along the way it offers hints, no more, of James's troubled sexual identity, including his fascination with a young English manservant, his (apparently platonic) night in bed with Oliver Wendell Holmes and his curious obsession with a dashing Scandinavian sculptor of little talent but huge charisma. Another recurrent motif is James's absorption in the lives of spirited, highly intelligent but unhappy young women who die prematurely, which helped to inform some of his strongest fiction. The subtlety and empathy with which Tóibín inhabits James's psyche and captures the fleeting emotional nuances of his world are beyond praise, and even the echoes of the master's style ring true. Far more than a stunt, this is a riveting, if inevitably somewhat evasive, portrait of the creative life.
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