An international literary sensation, Colm Tóibín’s brilliant and profoundly moving novel tells the story of celebrated writer Henry James. While delving back into James’s past, the narrative’s present day takes place over the course of five significant years in the author’s life, during which he produced a sequence of major novels that came into being at a high personal cost. In stunningly resonant prose, Tóibín captures nineteenth-century European landscapes and the loneliness and longing, the hope and despair of a man who never married, never resolved his sexual identity, and whose forays into intimacy inevitably failed him and those he tried to love. Time and again, James, a master of psychological subtlety in his fiction, proves blind to his own heart. In The Master, Colm Tóibín has written his most powerful novel, one that enters the mind and soul of Henry James, the man and the writer, to give us a true portrait of the artist.
From the Hardcover edition.
Review quote“Colm Tóibín takes us almost shockingly close to the soul of Henry James and, by extension, to the mystery of art itself. It is a remarkable, utterly original book.”
–Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours
“A must read. Colm Tóibín has not only written a spectacular novel, he has found a way to pay tribute to Henry James. We should all be so gifted and so lucky.”
“A triumph.… Breathtaking.… Beautifully shaped and written, it is the best work of a very gifted writer.”
“[Tóibín] is being hailed as a genius.… A piece of virtuoso writing.”
–Globe and Mail
“An audacious, profound, and wonderfully intelligent book.”
“Artful, moving and very beautiful.…”
— New York Times Book Review
“Impressive and moving.… The Master is a lovely portrait of the artist, rich in fictional truth.”
–Times Literary Supplement
“Colm Tóibín leads us into the mind of Henry James with a power and nuanced persuasiveness that finally begin to seem miraculous.… Beautiful and perceptive.…”
“A sympathetic and triumphant novel.”
–The Observer (U.K.)
“A deep, lovely, and enthralling book that engages with the disquiet and drama of a famous writing life: splendidly conceived and composed by a writer who is himself a master of his art.”
“[Colm Tóibín is] greatly gifted.… A marvel.…”
–John Updike, The New Yorker
“Enthralling.… Tóibín displays – in a manner that is masterly – the wit and metaphorical flair, psychological subtlety and phrases of pouncing incisiveness with which a great novelist captured the nuances of consciousness and the duplicities of society.”
–Sunday Times (U.K.)
“This is a taut, well-crafted, mesmerising novel.… A masterly achievement.”
–The Independent (U.K.)
“The Master reflects all the brilliance and challenge of Henry James’s work, sweeping through the author’s life and mind with a scope that’s both broad and precise.… A beautiful, haunting portrayal that measures the amplitude of silence and the trajectory of a glance in the life of one of the world’s most astute social observers.”
–Christian Science Monitor
“Convincing and enthralling. . . . Colm Tóibín has written a superb novel about a great artist.…”
“Tóibín takes James’s mind and life as a subject, but for a novel that is all his own.… Brilliant and imaginative.…”
–The New York Review of Books
“Henry James, the greatest observer we have, is now made to observe himself in this meditation that is, oddly, both Olympian and troubled. Colm Tóibín has a perfect understanding of the greatest of all American writers and accompanies him to Rome, Newport, Paris, Florence, the London of Oscar Wilde. Nothing about this book, however, feels piecemeal or improvised; it is a sustained performance worthy of the Master.”
“A superlative book.… Read this compelling, restrained book by a still young master.”
“A novel of beautifully realized interludes woven with the sinew of memory.”
–Toronto StarGlobe and Mail (profile)
“Ambitious and gracefully plotted.… Ingenious and thoughtful.…”
“This marvellously intelligent and engaging novel presents not on a silver platter but in tender, opened hands a beautifully nuanced psychological portrait.”
–Booklist (starred review)
From the Hardcover edition.
About the AuthorColm Tóibín is the award-winning author of five novels: The South, winner of the Irish Times/Aer Lingus Literature Prize; The Heather Blazing, winner of the Encore Award for best second novel; The Story of the Night; The Blackwater Lightship, which was a finalist for the Booker Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; and, most recently, The Master, a finalist for the Man Booker Prize.
His non-fiction includes Bad Blood: A Walk Along the Irish Border; Homage to Barcelona; The Sign of the Cross: Travels in Catholic Europe; and, most recently, Love in a Dark Time. He is also the co-author, with Carmen Callil, of The Modern Library: The 200 Best Novels in English Since 1950.
He lives in Dublin, Ireland.
From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpt from bookSometimes in the night he dreamed about the dead–familiar faces and the others, half-forgotten ones, fleetingly summoned up. Now as he woke, it was, he imagined, an hour or more before the dawn; there would be no sound or movement for several hours. He touched the muscles on his neck which had become stiff; to his fingers they seemed unyielding and solid but not painful. As he moved his head, he could hear the muscles creaking. I am like an old door, he said to himself.
It was imperative, he knew, that he go back to sleep. He could not lie awake during these hours. He wanted to sleep, enter a lovely blackness, a dark, but not too dark, resting place, unhaunted, unpeopled, with no flickering presences.
When he woke again, he was agitated and unsure where he was. He often woke like this, disturbed, only half remembering the dream and desperate for the day to begin. Sometimes when he dozed, he would bask in the hazy, soft light of Bellosguardo in the early spring, the distances all misty, feeling the sheer pleasure of sunlight on his face, sitting in a chair, close to the wall of the old house with the smell of wisteria and early roses and jasmine. He would hope when he woke that the day would be like the dream, that traces of the ease and the color and the light would linger at the edge of things until night fell again.
But this dream was different. It was dark or darkening somewhere, it was a city, an old place in Italy like Orvieto or Siena, but nowhere exact, a dream-city with narrow streets, and he was hurrying; he was uncertain now whether he was alone or with somebody, but he was hurrying and there were students walking slowly up the hill too, past lighted shops and cafés and restaurants, and he was eager to get by them, finding ways to pass them. No matter how hard he tried to remember, he was still not sure if he had a companion; perhaps he did, or perhaps it was merely someone who walked behind him. He could not recall much about this shadowy, intermittent presence, but for some of the time there seemed to be a person or a voice close to him who understood better than he did the urgency, the need to hurry, and who insisted under his breath in mutterings and mumbles, cajoled him to walk faster, edge the students out of his path.
Why did he dream this? At each long and dimly lit entrance to a square, he recalled, he was tempted to leave the bustling street, but he was urged to carry on. Was his ghostly companion telling him to carry on? Finally, he walked slowly into a vast Italian space, with towers and castellated roofs, and a sky the color of dark blue ink, smooth and consistent. He stood there and watched as though it were framed, taking in the symmetry and texture.