Colm Tóibín’s “The Master” took far too long to read. Not that it’s a bad book; it isn’t. It’s very well written, in fact; one might almost say meticulous, and in that way almost a homage to Henry James, it’s subject. But what I struggled with was, I believe, tone.
It is difficult to know if one is reading a fiction or a truth, a novel or a biography. Because of that, it was difficult to know how to respond to it. There is also very little in the way of dialogue, so the pace of the thing is pedestrian, monotone. When you add that to the notion of it not feeling like fiction at all, it almost reads like a reference book.
I recognise that may be a little harsh – and inaccurate. I can see why it was shortlisted for the Booker, primarily because it is a good and – in many ways – a somewhat unique read. On my edition there is a quote on the front cover: “audacious, profound, and wonderfully intelligent”. I’m not sure I can disagree, I’m just uncertain as to how much I actually liked it.