Colm Tóibín captures the exquisite anguish of a man who circulated in the grand parlours and palazzos of Europe, who was astonishingly alive and vibrant in his art, and yet whose attempts at intimacy inevitably failed him and those he tried to love. It is a powerful account of the hazards of putting the life of the mind before affairs of the heart.
This probing portrayal of Henry James is not merely an outstanding narrative. In crisp, modulated writing, it subtly balances a range of devices that leave the reader in no doubt about the accomplishment of this work. For its deftly excavated psychology of the Jamesian childhood and youth, for its quiet revelations of the artist’s journey and the emotional and material necessities accompanying this, for the melancholic undertone which surfaces through the probing landscape of this writer’s life, The Master is, and will continue to be, a work of novelistic art: its preoccupations are truth and the elusiveness of intimacy, and from such preoccupations emerge this patient, beautiful, exposure of loss, and the price of the pursuit of perfection.