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Nora Webster: A Novel Audiobook, by Colm Tóibín Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Colm Tóibín Narrator: Fiona Shaw Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2014 ISBN: 9781442361546
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From one of contemporary literature’s bestselling, critically acclaimed and beloved authors, a magnificent new novel set in Ireland, about a fiercely compelling young widow and mother of four, navigating grief and fear, struggling for hope.

Set in Wexford, Ireland, Colm Tóibín’s superb seventh novel introduces the formidable, memorable and deeply moving Nora Webster. Widowed at forty, with four children and not enough money, Nora has lost the love of her life, Maurice, the man who rescued her from the stifling world to which she was born. And now she fears she may be drawn back into it. Wounded, strong-willed, clinging to secrecy in a tiny community where everyone knows your business, Nora is drowning in her own sorrow and blind to the suffering of her young sons, who have lost their father. Yet she has moments of stunning empathy and kindness, and when she begins to sing again, after decades, she finds solace, engagement, a haven—herself.

Nora Webster is a masterpiece in character study by a writer at the zenith of his career, “beautiful and daring” (The New York Times Book Review) and able to “sneak up on readers and capture their imaginations” (USA TODAY). In Nora Webster, Tóibín has created a character as iconic, engaging and memorable as Madame Bovary or Hedda Gabler. Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • “Atmospheric…Nora Webster is, like Toibin’s best characters, iconoclastic, strong and deep…Nora is not entirely likable—a self-centered person mired in depression rarely is. But Nora is also proud, fierce, and angry—and slowly, slowly she wins you over. Even more important, she eventually finds a way to save herself. This is not a novel that makes a lot of noise—and yet it’s musical. It has a kind of deliberate, note-by-note crescendo—but very few crashing cymbals—as Nora rediscovers her love of singing, learns how art can help her navigate through grief, and how music can help even the most quiet among us to regain our voice.”, editorial review

  • “Richly detailed…Tóibín’s slow pacing results in bright moments of beauty.”

    New Yorker

  • “A high-wire act of an eighth novel…Toibin’s radical restraint elevates what might have been a familiar tale of grief and survival into a realm of heightened inquiry. The result is a luminous, elliptical novel in which everyday life manages, in moments, to approach the mystical…There is much about Nora Webster that we never know. And her very mystery is what makes her regeneration, when it comes, feel universal.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “[Nora Webster] may actually be a perfect work of fiction… There is no pyrotechny in the writing — just compassion and shrewd insight. Which is where Toibin’s brilliance lies.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “Fascinating…Revelatory…More thoughtful than Emma Bovary and less self-destructive, in the end far and away a better parent than the doomed Anna Karenina for all the latter’s dramatic posturing, Nora Webster is easily as memorable as either—and far more believable. To say more would spoil a masterful— and unforgettable—novel.”


  • “A deeply moving portrait of the flowering of a self-liberated woman, Nora Webster tells the story of all the invisible battles the heart faces every day.”

    Boston Globe

  • “Momentous, made with consummate art…It does everything we ought to ask of a great novel: that it respond to the fullness of our lives, be as large as life itself.”

    Guardian (London)

  • “Each paragraph of these pages rewards rereading, so deftly are they composed and so full of pathos and insight.”

    Minneapolis Star Tribune

  • “A subtle, pitch-perfect sonata of a novel in which an Irish widow faces her empty life and, incrementally, fills the hole left by the recent death of her husband…There’s a spiritual undercurrent here, in the nun who watches over Nora, in the community that provides what she needs (even as she resists), and especially in the music that fills her soul…A novel of mourning, healing, and awakening; its plainspoken eloquence never succumbs to the sentimentality its heroine would reject.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “Irish actor Fiona Shaw brings her melodic voice to Tóibín’s story of a recently widowed mother of four who is making her way out of all-encompassing grief. Shaw maintains much the same pitch for both male and female characters, while giving a poshy golf-club accent to one, a huffy bumbling one to another, and an unobtrusive stammer to a child so afflicted. Mostly, however, Shaw keeps to her own speaking style and conveys the personalities and dispositions of the various characters through pacing and intonation. She is marvelously adept at expressing the undercurrents—of guardedness, suspicion, pride, one-upmanship, and nosiness—that give the novel its richness.”

    Washington Post (audio review)

  • “This sublime melding of author and narrator voices is one of those novels you want to tell everyone about…Fiona Shaw’s lovely narration is both reserved and accessible. She manages the narrative pace in a telling waltz with the plot. And her character voices are instructively chosen. Nora, for instance, audibly expands as the first grief leaves her. The other characters, including a stammering son, shrill colleague, aged nuns, and well-meaning neighbors are also fine miniature portraits. What a magical listening experience. Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award.”


  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month, October 2014
  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award
  • One of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2014
  • A Washington Post Best Audiobook of 2014
  • A New York Times Editor’s Choice
  • Nominated for the 2015 Audie Award for Literary Fiction

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About the Author

Colm Tóibín is an Irish novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, journalist, critic, and poet. His novel The Master won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction, and was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. His other books of fiction have earned similar awards and have been translated into numerous languages. He lives in Dublin, Ireland.

About the Narrator

Fiona Shaw, Earphones Award-winning narrator, is an Irish actress and theater director. She is best known for her role as Petunia Dursley in the Harry Potter films and for her portrayal of Marnie Stonebrook in the HBO series True Blood. Also an accomplished classical actress, she was awarded an honorary CBE in 2001.