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The Master

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  5,591 ratings  ·  612 reviews
Like Michael Cunningham in The Hours, Colm Tóibín captures the extraordinary mind and heart of a great writer. Beautiful and profoundly moving, The Master tells the story of a man born into one of America's first intellectual families who leaves his country in the late nineteenth century to live in Paris, Rome, Venice, and London among privileged artists and writers.
In s
Paperback, 339 pages
Published May 3rd 2005 by Scribner (first published March 14th 2003)
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Community Reviews

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I loved this book. I thought Tóibín did a beautiful job adapting his style to one that was evocative of Henry James, although more easily readable. The novel moves with James to London, Ireland, Italy, and Rye, and effectively integrates James' memories of the past in flashbacks that come as responses to his relationships, tensions, and interactions with others.

Tóibín has been described as a writer who is keenly interested in his characters' psychology and relationships, and this interest comes
K.D. Absolutely
Apr 17, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books, Man Booker 2004, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Shelves: 1001-core, 501
The subtle third-person narrative of Tolm Coibin (born 1955) masterfully portrays Henry James (1843-1916) as person in this 2004 Booker-shortlisted novel, The Master. Covering a period of 5 years, 1895 to 1899, this includes his defeat at London Theatre when Guy Domville (1895) flopped, his self-seclusion in Rye East Sussex, flashback to his former life in America, before going back and ending the story in Rye.

I picked up this book because this is both a 501 and a 1001 and I have been postponin
Jun 25, 2008 Brenna rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 1001
usually i get frustrated and bogged down when the pace of a book is as slow as this one, and when the plot isn't really the point. but i loved loved loved this book, and loved its carefully crafted, meditative prose style. i found myself reading much more slowly than i usually do and thinking more about what was being said, so for me it was more of an interactive experience than reading usually is, and i loved that. the sentence structure was more challenging than the books i guess i've been rea ...more
“Nuanced” is one of those great homological words. (“Polysyllabic” is the usual example – a word that describes itself.) When multiple blurbs for a book call it nuanced, you can bet it’ll feature more in the way of inner life and less in the way of plot. Of course, this can be good or bad depending on how skilled the writer is, how interesting the drill-downs are, and the extent to which the M.O. might otherwise be hackneyed or boilerplate. It’s like jazz standards. I’m not talking about the ivo ...more
Colm Tóibín is a genius. In this novel, he explores the life and work of Henry James, spanning the period from 1895 to 1900. His characterization of James is so subtle and - dare I say? nuanced - that I was forced to keep on reading. Even though I don't particularly like Henry James or his work, by the time I finished this book, I was motivated to rethink my dislike.

If you're a James fan, this is probably a five-star book for you. For the rest of us, it's somewhere between 3 and 4 stars. It def
Joy H.
If you'd like to get a feel for the personality and life of Henry James without struggling (g), try this book.

Colm Toibin, author of _The Master_, imitates Henry James' style as he tells this fictionalized biography of part of Henry James' life.

I found it thrilling to feel so close to Henry James who has always seemed so distant as a writer. It was interesting to learn, as I read Henry's inner thoughts, that he suffered from self-doubt . He was human after all.

It was also interesting to read how
A thoughtful portrait of James' life and a beautiful read throughout. The story unfolds over a five-year period at the end of the 1890's, but also flashes back vividly to formative moments: the near misses of love, the quiet glances, the refrain from war, the peculiar family, the expressive lingering, and the solidifying artistic temperament. If ever a life embodied Yeats' maxim on the either/or nature of artistic endeavour, it was James'. His commitment was bold and serene, but he gave up much ...more
This book belongs to that genre of literary novels which create an imagined life (based heavily on research) for an historical character, in this case, the great novelist, Henry James. (Because there are other James family members appearing throughout, in person and in recollection, I refer to Henry James as Henry rather than as the customary James.)
Although the eleven chapters focus on the events taking place during specified months, beginning with January 1894 and ending with October 1899, the
Thoughtful and well considered novel about a short period in the life of Henry James the novelist. It is set in the late 1890s when James lived in Rye and is entirely told from the point of view of James and is placed in his interior life. James is not an author I have read; apart from The Turn of the Screw, but that didn't present any problems in reading and appreciating the book. The basic knowledge I had about his life and family was enough.
This novel moves slowly and is very descriptive,but
Mar 29, 2008 Jeff rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: revisionist historians
Recommended to Jeff by: andrea lynch
it's been a couple weeks since i finished _the master_, so i approach this review with both the benefit of critical distance and the burden of a poor memory for detail.

ostensibly a fictional account of the life and inner mental workings of henry james, _the master_ ironically succeeds in painting nuanced portraits of james's cohorts while treating james himself as little more than a caricature-montage of social withdrawal, repressed homosexuality and inadvertant emotional carelessness.

While one
This is my first Colm Toibin, and it definitely won’t be the last - he writes so beautifully, it is a joy to read, and this alone would earn top marks for me. But I did find the subject matter disorienting. I did not do any research before starting this novel, and so I can only presume that a lot of what the Henry James does and writes is based on Toibin’s own research, perusal of correspondence, and so on. But what about what Henry James thinks? How he feels? Hammond’s hand on his shoulder, the ...more
David Carr
This has been the perfect book for me, never once a disappointment over my slow months of reading it, and I am so grateful. My gratitude is enhanced by its unpredictability: Henry James has never become very readable for me, as I tried to do when I was very young. Now I see that I had been misled by a teacher who had too small a concept of the age and patience reading James requires. So I had led myself to open The Ambassadors, never quite figuring out a word of it, thinking at times it had been ...more
Sep 24, 2008 C. rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Suzy, and anyone and everyone
Recommended to C. by: 1001
Margaret Drabble, Tracy Chevalier, Sarah Dunnant et al., please take note: this is good historical fiction.

Although it was unclear to me at first the extent to which Colm Tóibín's beautiful book The Master is historical fiction and to what extent it is biography. Whatever it is, I absolutely adore it.

I don't know much about Henry James (in fact, I'm somewhat ashamed to say I've never read any of his books - I'll get to it eventually I promise), but from reading some reviews, I get the impression
The Master tells about Henry James from the inside out and back. The insight into the author's psych is mesmerizing and daring. He also gives a picture of those times' society, with the rich who offered their palaces, parties and company to artists all over Europe, and the artists who stayed as guests for months.
Henry James has enjoyed this kind of hospitality but he has also treasured his solitude.
It's hinted more than once and in various ways that he was homosexual, but either he was a-sexed
Ron Charles
In "The Art of Fiction," Henry James advises the beginning novelist, "Try to be one of the people on whom nothing is lost!" Unfortunately, much of James's insight is now lost on us. He grows more revered and unread with each passing decade. Shifting tastes, including a century of sensory overload, have rendered his social and emotional precision almost invisible. Students still struggle through his ghost story, "Turn of the Screw," but he's otherwise drifted off high school reading lists. When f ...more
The Master is the fictionalized biography of author Henry James. James was born of a wealthy Boston family, but lived much of his life in Europe. Throughout this book, James struggles in his relationships with both family and friends. He never completely loses his aloof standoffish behavior as well as the book hints of a struggle accepting or exploring his sexuality.

I have to say that I really struggled with this book. As I read over other people's reviews and I kept thinking - Is that the same
I liked Brooklyn and wanted to read more of Tóibín's work. Maybe this wasn't the right choice, but all the praises and reviews and awards seem to suggest otherwise. Granted I'm not a fan of James, I have no formed opinion of James, having never read his work, though I saw the film adaptations and they never made me want to read James. Like some classic literature tends to, James' work seemed to be something of a ploddingly slow variety, although most likely well written. Appropriately enough jus ...more
This is quite an intriguing novel—it is based on a real character and Tóibín makes extensive use of the letters, works, and biographies of Henry James but fictionalises the writer’s inner life, its motives, its guilt, its anguished introspective searching. Hence, it is an example of “faction”. The Henry James of this novel is certainly very much a creation of the author and while much may well be revelatory—it remains an imaginative excursion.

To build this portrait of the author, Tóibín concent
Joseph Longo
I loved this book by the wonderful Irish writer Colm Toibin. His prose is a pleasure to read and bask in.

This novel, a fictionalized life of 19th Century writer Henry James - his "Portrait of a Lady" is one of my favorite novels - is moving and detailed. Toibin's Henry James is a lonely, sexually repressed man who seemed to have an attraction to both men and women. His great and most intimate friend was a woman, and her suicide in Venice strongly disturbed him. Throughout the novel, however, Ja
A good one. Very nice. I'd recommend this book to people like my former roommate, who read the first page of "Wings of the Dove" and then threw it across the room while saying, "WTF is this shit?" That is to say, this is book for people to read who can't stand Henry James' style: the long sentences, etc. I am a James fan but I definitely concur that you totes have to be in the mood and that it's definitely a matter of taste. So yeah, I liked this book and looked forward to reading it. At times I ...more
Oct 01, 2008 Suzy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Suzy by: Cathy
Having just finished this today, I'm left slightly bewildered. There's no question that this is a piece of historical fiction which does proud to the genre, and I entered its world expecting to be dazzled. But it soon became clear that the author has no intention of dazzling anyone(perhaps this would fall under 'humbug'?).

There is a certain delicacy to the tone that blunts the keenest of humiliations and fervid of passions. Perhaps Toibin has taken us too deep into his subject, where every line
Beautifully done - I loved it. Somehow Tóibìn has written in a style which echoes that of James, without being a slavish imitation. James' reticence and inability to reach out to others is utterly convincing. He was always the outsider, watching and remembering but unable to participate except at a safe and shallow level.

A wonderful book.
It takes extreme self-confidence, experience and balls to write fiction about the life of a Master like Henry James.
This book is brilliantly written and couldn't seem more accurate in capturing what must have been the conflicts and pleasures and everyday challenges of James.
It perfectly describes his conflicting needs for solitude and society, family and privacy and passion and friendship.
Toibin adroitly captures James' unceasing drive to continue working.
This book reminds me of, The Hours, in
Se siete fan di Henry James, allora amerete alla follia questo libro e avrete l'impulso irresistibile di mandare una lettere di ringraziamento, se non d'amore, a Colm Toìbin (nome fascinosamente originale!). Se, come me, Henry James se si è insinuato nelle vostre menti solo tramite commenti altrui, raccomandazioni e sentito dire, allora la faccenda si fa meno scontata.
Posso dire cos'è stato per me The Master.

Sicuramente insolito rispetto alle solite biografie romanzate, ad un livello diverso, fo
The Master by Colm Tibn

The Master is a fictionalized biography of Henry James. Tibn captures the essence of James as being a man who is the constant observer of human emotion and behavior and never the participant. It is subtle, beautifully written, and a slow-moving tale. The book follows five years of James life beginning shortly after the failure of his play, Guy Domville, through his self-imposed exile in Europe.

I enjoyed this book immensely and yet I have a hard time explaining why. The st
This was a reread for me, and I'm so glad I did take time out to reread.

I've been a longtime fan of Henry James and I've read almost everything he ever published. Not quite everything, but almost. My favorites are The Golden Bowl, the novella, The Turn of the Screw, and the exquisite Portrait of a Lady. Henry James is the only man, other than Jose Saramago, who can grab my attention at the beginning of a sentence and hold it until he concludes that very same sentence several pages later.

Toibin, Colm. THE MASTER. (2004). ****.
Winner of the L.A. Times Book Award, and short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, the author treats us to an examination of the life of Henry James from 1895-1899. Granted, I’m not a huge fan of James – especially the novels of his later period – but Mr Toibin manages to snare the reader, mostly focusing on James’s interaction with his friends. The novel starts out with the abysmal failure of James’s play, “Guy Domville.” At the end of the play, James was t
I found "The Master" utterly boring to read. I'd only picked it up because it was on one of the "1001 books you must read before you die" lists. Perhaps I should have read a summary of the book before reading it. As a reader who has not read any of Henry James's books, I can't say that Colm Toibin made me anymore the curiouser. Of course, I do think it was a technically well written book -- however there was so little suspense there or anything to keep the reader, who has no interest in Henry Ja ...more
"It would spoil my post-mortem expression which I have been practising for years." This is what James's sister says some time before her death, which he eventually attends: "He stayed by her body, knowing that lying peacefully in death was what she had craved to do. She looked beautiful and noble, and he believed, after all his earlier doubts, that if she could see herself as her body awaited cremation, she would feel a grim delight at what she had become." And on and on the book is filled with ...more
Jan 10, 2010 Jan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lovers of literature, American History
Colm Toibin's portrait of literary Master Henry James is certainly gorgeous; gorgeous are the quality of its prose and the windows that the author is glad to open into the life of America's nineteenth century elite, scarred by the Civil War, but also proud in its cultural nascence.

Emotional and psychological complexity are the least we could expect from such a portrait of the Master, so let us start with this pride, written in various ways across the James family, as much the subject of the book
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(From the authors website - )
"Colm Toibin was born in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford in 1955. He studied at University College Dublin and lived in Barcelona between 1975 and 1978. Out of his experience in Barcelona be produced two books, the novel ‘The South’ (shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award and winner of the Irish Times/ Aer Lingus First Fiction
More about Colm Tóibín...
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“For the first time in years, he felt the deep sadness of exile, knowing that he was alone here, an outsider, and too alert to the ironies, the niceties, the manners, and indeed, the morals to be able to participate.” 8 likes
“It is terrible to be an unprotected being.” 5 likes
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