In prose brimming with life and energy, Edna O’Brien resurrects a relationship of magnificent intensity on the page, and in doing so shows herself to be touched by the genius of the writer she loves above all others.
James and Nora: A Portrait of a Marriage by Edna O'Brien
It was June 10th, Barnacle Day. He saw her in Nassau Street and they stopped to talk. She thought his blue eyes were those of a Norseman. He was twenty-two, and she, Nora Barnacle, was twenty and employed as a chambermaid in Finn’s Hotel. They agreed to meet on June 14th, outside No. 1 Merrion Square, the home of Sir William Wilde, but Nora did not turn up. After a dejected letter from Joyce they met on June 16th, a date which came to be immortalized in literature as Bloomsday.
Edna O’Brien paints a miniature portrait of an artist, idealist, insurgent and filled with a secret loneliness. In Nora, he was to find accomplice, collaborator and muse. For all their sexual escalations, Joyce considered their relationship ‘a kind of sacrament’. Their life was one of wandering, emotional upheaval and poverty. It was also one that was binding and mysterious, and defied all the mores of intimacy.