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Review: The Master, by Colm Toibin


An intimate portrait of Henry James's life from 1895-99, The Master is the story of a great American author. Colm Toibin takes his reader deep into the psyche of this extremely complicated man, as we witness first the bomb of a play on the London stage, then move to a dinner party in Ireland to which he is invated, and the buying of his dream house in Rye.

Although the book is divided into eleven chapters, each with its own "time" and place, the action really isn't limited to a particular place. The narrative goes back in time to James's childhood, exploring the relationships he had with his siblings, especially his invalid sister Alice. The reader gets a look at Henry James's relationships with other authors, and the effect other writers had on him. We get a look into the inspiration behind Henry James's own works.

The subject of the book is infinitely fascinating; this book looks into the private life of a man who chose not to enter the Union army during the Civil War and who never really felt comfortable with his own sexuality. While the author never really touches upon Henry James's sexual feelings, he hints at what might possibly have been.

In all, this is a well-written piece of fiction, not simply because of the fascinating subject, but because of its own literary value.
Also reviewed by: A Guy's Moleskin Notebook

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