Reviews

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

This distinguished Irish novelist boldly offers a fictional depiction of the last two decades of the life of the great god of American letters, Henry James. We come in on James at a low point in his career, the 1895 failure on the London stage of his play Guy Domville. This setback ignites months of lethargy and pain and disappointment. What Toibin has so boldly done--and done so brilliantly and successfully--is forge a sympathetic but not mushy imagining of James' interior life at this crossroads, a picture that renders the Master astonishingly lifelike. Toibin gives him ordinary human qualities, such as fear and loneliness and longing, in a shaping and shading process that has not been an easy task, even in the most thoughtful, scrupulously researched biography. Obviously, by Toibin's illustration, fiction is the best way to achieve such a result, the best approach to infusing this somewhat cold, distant, and removed-from-real-life literary icon with an embracing degree of warmth and humanity. Even the reader who knows little about Henry James or his work can enjoy this marvelously intelligent and engaging novel, which presents not on a silver platter but in tender, opened hands a beautifully nuanced psychological portrait. --Brad Hooper Copyright 2004 Booklist


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Dublin journalist, travel book writer, and novelist (his Blackwater Lightship was short-listed for the 1999 Booker Prize), Toibin here turns a life-long obsession with Henry James into a scrupulously researched and artfully rendered biographical novel. Fear not, fervent Jamesians, no attempt has been made to imitate the master's inimitable style. Even when the narrator takes us inside the mind of James, circa 1890s, Toibin's prose is largely straightforward even as the subject matter discursively wanders the streets and beau monde residences of Paris, Dublin, London, Rome, Venice, and James's English home, Lamb House, in Rye, Sussex. From the subtle machinations of James's closeted homoerotic sensibilities, to his intense friendships with both men and women, to his angst over the notorious failure of his only performed drama, Toibin excels at showing us (not telling us, as James himself advised in his seminal essay, "The Art of Fiction") the connections between James's life and his fictional oeuvre. Highly recommended for most fiction and all literary fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/04.] Mark Andr? Singer, Mechanics' Inst. Lib., San Francisco (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Celebrated Irish novelist T?ib!n reimagines the life of celebrated Anglo-American novelist Henry James. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publishers Weekly
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It's a bold writer indeed who dares to put himself inside the mind of novelist Henry James, but that is what Toibin, highly talented Irish author of The Heather Blazing and The Blackwater Lightship, has ventured here, with a remarkable degree of success. The book is a fictionalized study, based on many biographical materials and family accounts, of the novelist's interior life from the moment in London in 1895 when James's hope to succeed in the theater rather than on the printed page was eclipsed by the towering success of his younger contemporary Oscar Wilde. Thereafter the book ranges seamlessly back and forth over James's life, from his memories of his prominent Brahmin family in the States including the suicide of his father and the tragic early death of his troubled sister Alice to his settling in England, in a cherished house of his own choosing in Rye. Along the way it offers hints, no more, of James's troubled sexual identity, including his fascination with a young English manservant, his (apparently platonic) night in bed with Oliver Wendell Holmes and his curious obsession with a dashing Scandinavian sculptor of little talent but huge charisma. Another recurrent motif is James's absorption in the lives of spirited, highly intelligent but unhappy young women who die prematurely, which helped to inform some of his strongest fiction. The subtlety and empathy with which Toibin inhabits James's psyche and captures the fleeting emotional nuances of his world are beyond praise, and even the echoes of the master's style ring true. Far more than a stunt, this is a riveting, if inevitably somewhat evasive, portrait of the creative life. Agent, Peter Straus at Rogers, Coleridge & White (June) Forecast: This is too subtly shaded and leisurely for some fiction readers, but James's many admirers will be drawn to its many insights and its uncanny recreation of his world. Five-city author tour. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved