Review: Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín

Nora WebsterNora Webster by Colm Tóibín

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a master Colm Tóibín is. This novel feels restrained and understated, like its heroine – an astonishing thing, when you consider that Tóibín is writing about a woman plunged into grief. At times I wanted Tóibín to show us her turmoil, to give us some angst or emotion at least, but he holds back. And strangely this makes the story better and ultimately more moving. As the story moves forward it grows in a quiet power, like laying down layers of sediment until the weight of it rests on your mind long after you’ve finished reading.

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Defining Beauty at the British Museum

Just a quick review and some thoughts on ‘Defining Beauty’, which is currently on at the British Museum in London. We went a couple of weekends ago, and I loved it.

Firstly, from the moment you walk in to the exhibition you know you’re in for a treat. The show’s focus is the body in ancient Greek art, and I like that what greets you straight away is not some full-frontal, muscled athlete, but the naked derrière of Aphrodite herself. It’s as if we’ve stumbled clumsily into her presence, catching her in her graceful crouch, her head turned at the sound of our footfall. It’s an arresting, totally entrancing start to the show.

Marble statue of a naked Aphrodite crouching at her bath, also known as Lely’s Venus. Roman copy of a Greek original, 2nd century AD
Marble statue of a naked Aphrodite crouching at her bath, also known as Lely’s Venus. Roman copy of a Greek original, 2nd century AD

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Pathways

I went on a chilly walk a few weeks ago, and snapped some of the pathways and lanes I spotted. I was going to upload them into a pointless post, just because I like them. But looking at them again reminds me of how I was feeling when I took them: a bit lost, a bit low, with no path or purpose ahead of me. Life doesn’t come with anything so helpful as a nice yellow-bricked route, mapped out ahead of us. Thank goodness.

Winter lane

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Out of the fridge, into the freezer

Just as we’re all getting excited about making it to the end of January, the gods of winter wake up from their New Year nap. With a stretch and a flex of their muscles, they breath in deeply and the mercury drops: down, down, down. And then they exhale, and let loose their bone-chilling breath into the land.

This morning the grass was dusted with snow, and the air tasted sharp and clean like a gulp of ice water.

snowy garden

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Winter walk

The thing about winter is it’s too easy to spend ages indoors. If you’ve got a wi-fi connection and an electric blanket you needn’t leave the house for days. For me, Procrastinator Extraordinaire, the house is a minefield of displacement activities, and if I’m not vigilant hours will pass where I haven’t managed to focus on a single thing and I start feeling dopey and dull. The thorns start curling up around my mind, and I find myself coming to a standstill in front of a window, gazing outside at the fields, like a caged cat. Birdsong comes through the glass in muted peeps, and I just stand and watch the portly progress of a pigeon across the lawn, or a sheep hauling itself heavily up from the ground.

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