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The Master

3.83  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,422 Ratings  ·  724 Reviews
“Colm Tóibín’s beautiful, subtle illumination of Henry James’s inner life” (The New York Times) captures the loneliness and hope of a master of psychological subtlety whose forays into intimacy inevitably fail those he tried to love.

Beautiful and profoundly moving, The Master tells the story of Henry James, a man born into one of America’s first intellectual families who l
Paperback, 339 pages
Published May 3rd 2005 by Scribner (first published March 14th 2003)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Apr 13, 2012 Kris rated it it was amazing
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 really liked it
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
Jan 04, 2016 Helle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: irish-lit, 1001-books
Life is a mystery and (that) only sentences are beautiful (…)

The disadvantage of listening to an audiobook, however mellow and fittingly transatlantic the accent of the narrator, is that one cannot hold on to the sentences. They seem more fleeting when listened to, even when, as in this case, I went back many times to pay more attention to the beauty of a sentence, the significance of a word. And there was much I wanted to hold on to and savour in this gorgeous novel.

It is the story of Henry Ja
Apr 10, 2016 KerryH rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-star
The Master is a fictionalised biography of four and a half years years in the life of the American novelist Henry James and covers his expatriate years in the UK and Europe. This beautifully crafted and sensitive novel is suffused with longing and bereavement, hidden emotions and hidden desires and depicts Henry James as a master observer of the lives of others.

There are several scenes in the novel that struck me as being at odds with the portrait that Colm Toíbín paints of a repressed, shy, wit
Jim Fonseca
Sep 06, 2015 Jim Fonseca rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books
The Master is the story of the key life-shaping experiences of Henry James. While we learn a lot about James' life, the book is not at all structured as a traditional biography. It begins late in James' life when he was settled in England and it has him reflect back on these experiences. In particular, three women, very close to him -- an invalid sister, a brilliant favorite cousin, and an author friend died relatively young. Another life-forming event was a summer camp experience with a large g ...more
Feb 21, 2012 Steve rated it really liked it
“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
Jun 25, 2008 Brenna rated it it was amazing
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
Ahmad Sharabiani
9. The Master, Colm Tóibín
ادبیات ایرلند

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
Jan 09, 2015 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 19, 2009 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2009
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
May 25, 2014 Margaret rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 25, 2012 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-novels
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
Apr 19, 2011 Avital rated it it was amazing
Shelves: irish
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
May 14, 2015 Paola rated it really liked it
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
Ron Charles
Dec 13, 2013 Ron Charles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
David Carr
Feb 11, 2013 David Carr rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 10, 2016 Alex rated it it was amazing
It's pretty audacious to make Henry James the hero of your book. Tóibín starts by showing us this deeply closeted, repressed guy: this is the Henry James we know. But then: he goes deeper, writing him as not just closeted but a coward, a selfish guy, and you're like whoa, hey. And then he goes even deeper and shows the terrible damage he's inflicted on everyone around him through his cowardice and selfishness, and you realize Tóibín hasn't made James the hero of his book; he's made him the villa ...more
Mar 29, 2008 Jeff rated it liked it
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
Apr 10, 2016 Caren rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
I read this piece of historical fiction for a library book discussion group. The book is about the writer, Henry James, covering nearly a decade in the 1890s when he was middle-aged. Although it was informative, I would probably have preferred to read a straight biography. Using an episodic approach, it shifted rather dreamily from his current life to his memories of earlier times and people, which was sometimes hard for me to follow. Mr. James seemed to have been an introverted, deeply introspe ...more
Apr 19, 2015 Bandit rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 24, 2008 C. rated it it was amazing
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
My rating: 3.5 stars

This is the fictionalized story of Henry James life in the period of 1895 to 1899.

The author describes his turbulent family life, including the suicide of his father, the tragic and early death of his sister Alice, his cousin Minny Temple who suffered from tuberculosis.

Along the narrative, the author show the influence and/or friendship of some authors on Henry James during the referred period of time of this book: John Gray, Oscar Wilde among many others.

His strong friendshi
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
Sep 14, 2014 Lavinia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, in-en, 2014
There is proof that each book has its own time. I started The Master a few years back and gave it up soon after because of it being so slow paced. But there was nothing I needed lately than a slow paced book (with some interruptions for the latest Downton Abbey season). I'm still under the spell of Tóibín's prose, thinking it might take a while till I'll find something to equal it. Bring on the Nobel, please!

Oh, and I wonder how come this was translated in Romanian and Brooklyn wasn't (since it
Dec 30, 2014 cameron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 26, 2015 Richard rated it really liked it
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
Apr 03, 2014 Joseph Longo rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 03, 2013 Pickle rated it liked it
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 really liked it
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
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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 Award) and ‘Homage to Barcelona’, both published in 1990. When he retur ...more
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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.” 13 likes
“It is terrible to be an unprotected being.” 9 likes
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