The Magician – Colm Toibin

Thomas Mann was a favourite author of my great German Canadian friend Thea, so I decided to read this biographical portrait of the Nobel Prize-winning author by Toibin, the magnificent Irish writer. Mann’s life, separate from his writing, is fascinating, evolving from a German nationalist in WWI to become an internationalist and anti-Nazi figure. Conflicted relationships abound within his troubled family and within his homeland. Overall, an epic story of a complex man.

Nora Webster by Colm Toibin

This is a beautifully written quiet story about a 45-year-old recently widowed woman living in Ireland (County Wexford) who is conflicted by her need for privacy and the needs of her 4 children, and the attentions of her neighbours and friends. The time is the late 1960s, with approaching social and political changes. Nora is complex, often prickly and usually blunt – a fascinating character.