Henry James made his reputation as a sophisticated observer of 19th-century society. His books, such as PORTRAIT OF A LADY and THE TURN OF THE SCREW, provide detailed psychological studies of his characters and their motivations. In THE MASTER, the observer is himself observed. Colm Tóibín turns Henry James into a leading character in this spectacular achievement of literary fiction.
When writing about historical figures, the writer must choose which events will best illuminate his chosen subject. Colm Tóibín shows us Henry James at moments of intense emotional stress, experienced or remembered during the last years of the nineteenth century. One such incident is