The Master: A Novel
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“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 leaves his country in the late nineteenth century to live in Paris, Rome, Venice, and London among privileged artists and writers. With stunningly resonant prose, “The Master is unquestionably the work of a first-rate novelist: artful, moving, and very beautiful” (The New York Times Book Review). The emotional intensity of this portrait is riveting.
a place of refuge, a place of beauty and, in the small world of Anglo-American life, a place of immense intrigue. Even the names of the palaces would be enough, he said, to conjure up a sense of nobility, of dedication to art, and indeed to hospitality. For a young man from Newport, he said, the apartment of the Storys in Palazzo Barberini or the Terrys lodged in Palazzo Odescalchi, or even Caffè Spillmann on Via Condotti, were places of glory, long held and treasured in the memory, and he wished
William James and Alice, Henry was told, would be traveling first to Germany where he would go to Nauheim to take the cure and then to England. He seemed to be declining the offer of the apartment. Henry wrote to him at Nauheim about his interest in purchasing Lamb House. Later, he realized that he had explained far too much, as though he were an errant son writing to a parent, or indeed a profligate younger brother writing to his wiser, older sibling. He had not asked William for advice, or for
notebook: “Note here the ghost story told me at Addington (evening of Thursday 10th), by the archbishop of Canterbury: the mere vague, undetailed, faint sketch of it: the story of the young children (indefinite number and age), left to the care of servants in an old country house, through the death, presumably, of parents. The servants, wicked and depraved, corrupt and deprave the children: the children are bad, full of evil to a sinister degree. The servants die (the story vague about the way of
wondered if his mother’s death had been like this. Alice was the only one who would know, the only one he could have asked. He stood up and touched her as her breathing became easy and regular, her sleep peaceful. And this lasted an hour. She was still not ready to go, and he wondered who she was now, what part of her existed in these last hours. As her breathing stopped, he watched in alarm. He was unprepared, despite those days and nights of vigil. She took another breath, labored and shallow.
shoulders, his rib cage. He then began meticulously to finger his spine. Eventually, he made him lie facedown on the couch as he repeated each exercise. Then, having indicated to Henry that he should remove all his clothing save his undershorts, he ran his hand clinically along his hip bones and pelvis, repeating the earlier exercise on his spine and arms and shoulders, pressing hard until Henry winced. Henry had presumed that he would be asked where the pain centered and what sort of pain it