iread – my reading life

A couple of days ago I finished reading Colm Toibin’s Nora Webster, another finely tuned piece of internal reflection on the value of a small life. Nora is a recent widow at the opening of the story; a woman trying to come to terms with both the death of her husband and the needs of her two youngest children. Told entirely from her viewpoint, Nora struggles to deal with the well meaning members of her local community while, in her own quiet way, grieving for the man she loved.

Toibin invites readers to consider the average life, the challenges of family and their issues with us, as well as the lack of communication necessitated by having been raised with an overly inquisitive mother. Nora must make her own way in the world, find a new way of life which will support her while also enabling her to find a way to be alone. It is poignant to imagine how each of us might deal with the circumstances in which she finds herself. While the majority of us are now living in world’s where most of the people around us are not aware of the conditions of life in which we live,  there are still many for whom this close world, where everyone knows each other and each others history, life circumstances and family, is real and normal enough for there to be a high degree of empathy.

I do not live in a world like Nora’s, but I do have children and can only imagine how I would have coped with the death of my husband while they were so young. While it is never easy to lose those close to our hearts, it exacerbates the trauma when our kids are young, because they miss out on so much, and are naturally affected by the loss, especially as memories fade and life goes on; accompanied as it is by the guilt of letting go. Toibin revels in this smaller life – no grand gestures here. No dramatic events. Just the slow overcoming of loss, the dealing with change, the realisation that life goes on. Somehow the very normality of it all makes the story even more sad and deep. It is not necessary to go looking for great stories, we all have one in our own lives.

Now, if I can just persuade my students to use their own lives, we might be able to see them compose some rather lovely pieces.

Advertisements Share this:
Like this:Like Loading... Related