The Master, by Colm Tóibín

Another book about Henry James, which I wanted to read after finishing Author, Author for the second time.

This book was more successful than the Lodge novel, and was nominated for the Booker prize. I was expecting it to be a bit more "modern" than Lodge's book, and so was a bit surprised that it was fairly similar in structure to that book: a fairly straightforward narrative story about James' life.

Author, Author concentrated on the period leading up to and after the production of Guy Domeville, and was "about" James' attempts to become a successful dramatist, and his friendship with Du Maurier, who was (in James' time) much more successful. This book opens as Guy Domeville is opening, and so covers some of the same time period, but also has sections about James' life as a young man, and more about his relationships with this brother who was a soldier in the US civil war.

I didn't like this book nearly so much as Author, Author.I don't think Tóibín comes across as having so much affection for James as Lodge does, and I didn't feel I "knew" James so well after reading this one. While many of James' friends and acquaintances were common to both books, there was relatively little about Fennimore in this one (it was mostly written from the point of view of the aftermath of her death) and there was nothing about Du Maurier. Perhaps Lodge exaggerated Du Maurier's influence on James' life in order to build a better story about James' thwarted ambitions as a playwright, but it seemed odd that he didn't appear at all in this book.

Lodge didn't speculate much on James' sexual inclinations (although he mentions such speculations in the afterward); in this book the hints are stronger that James had homosexual leanings.

I liked the joke told towards the end of the book, although I don't think it's original to it, of the trapper in the woods who's confronted by a fierce bear, and offers up a prayer: "Oh God, I ain't never asked you for help, and I ain't gonna ask for your help now. But I do ask you, for pity's sake, don't help that bear"

Completed : 21-Nov-2014 (audiobook)

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