We gave it an A-
THE MASTER Colm Toibin Novel (Scribner, $25)
Toibin’s delicate, scrupulous biographical novel about Henry James focuses on a period James’ biographer Leon Edel called ”the treacherous years,” when, as the 19th century waned, the giant of American letters, then in his 50s and trying to reinvent himself as a playwright, did not feel at home in America, Europe, his profession, or his own skin. Drawing with a combination of rigorous fidelity and intelligent guesswork on the events of James’ life before he wrote his final masterpieces, Toibin paints a graceful, terribly sad portrait of a lonely, repressed homosexual fated to spend his life almost connecting, gazing through windows, recording with crystalline accuracy the minute struggles of the societies that surrounded him. If at times The Master feels as uncomfortably stranded between literary genres as its subject, Toibin’s accomplishment — a depiction of James that is, in its nuance, specificity, and tenderness, Jamesian — is still extraordinary.