It is January 1895 and Henry James's play, Guy Domville, from which he hoped to make a fortune, has failed on the London stage. "The Master" opens with this disaster and takes the writer through the next five years, as he moved to Rye in Sussex having found his dream retreat, and as he wrote his short masterpiece, "The Turn of the Screw", in which he used so much of his own life as an exile in England and a member of one of the great eccentric American families. He is impelled by the need to work, and haunted by sections of his own past, including his failure to fight in the American Civil War, and the golden summer of 1865, and the death of his sister Alice. He is watchful and witty, relishing the England in which he has come to live and regretting the New England he has left.
Colm Toibin was born in Ireland in 1955, and lives in Dublin. He is the author of four novels, including the 1999 Booker nominated The Blackwater Lightship. His non-fiction includes Bad Blood, Homage to Barcelona, The Sign of the Cross, and, most recently, Love in a Dark Time.