“She wondered if she would ever again be able to have a normal conversation and what topics she might be able to discuss with ease and interest. At the moment the only topic she could discuss was herself. And everyone, she felt, had heard enough about her. They believed it was time that she stop brooding and think of other things. But there were no other things. There was only what had happened. It was as though she lived underwater and had given up on the struggle to swim towards air. It would be too much. Being released into the world of others seemed impossible; it was something she did not even want. How could she explain this to anyone who sought to know how she was or asked if she was getting over what happened?”
— Colm Tóibín, Norma Webster
+ + +
Norma Webster is quite possibly one of the most riveting character studies I have ever read.
Set in a small town in southeast Ireland during the late 1960s/early 1970s, this is a study of Nora, a widow in her forties struggling to come to terms with the loss of her husband while shouldering the upbringing of her four children.
Left without an income, Nora must find employment after years as a homemaker. Nora wants to hide and she needs to mourn but feels she can’t because of the probing eyes of the small village she lives in. The book is a study of a strong and intelligent woman trying to pick up the pieces and rebuild her life on her own terms. Tóibín does an impressive job of portraying Nora as a real flesh and blood person and we, the reader, are privy to her inner thoughts and the inner journey she undertakes toward self-acceptance and healing.