Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Albert Nobbes

Posted by nliakos on June 12, 2012

by George Moore (in Celibate Lives by George Moore, originally published 1927 by J. C. Medley; Chatto & Windus 1968)

I recently saw the film Albert Nobbes, starring Glenn Close as a woman living her life as a male waiter in a 19th-century Dublin hotel. I was intrigued by the idea that in an era when single women probably had few opportunities to earn an honest living, this may have been more common than we imagine. I decided to read the novella on which the play and film were based.

It wasn’t easy to find it! I thought I might get it as a free e-Book (no) or at the public library (no!). I finally found a copy at the University of Maryland’s McKeldin Library. There are five novellas in the collection. I have read only “Albert Nobbes.”  The story is very similar to the film with certain changes to the plot; for example, in the movie, Albert goes to Hubert’s home and meets his (her) wife, whereas in the novella, Albert never sees Hubert again after the night they spend sharing Albert’s room and both their stories; s/he is left to wonder about Hubert’s marriage, and how/when Hubert revealed his/her sex to his/her wife until the end of the story. Albert’s death comes about differently in the novella, as well. However, the essence of the story was clearly there in the film.

I found it difficult to follow the narrative and dialogue, as both were enmeshed in the same long paragraphs without the benefit of quotation marks or line breaks to indicate who was saying what, or whether they were speaking aloud or just thinking. Modern readers are not accustomed to this kind of text, so it is a bit off-putting.

I haven’t decided whether I will read the other stories in the book yet.

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