The master here is Henry James in his later years. But the term could just as well refer to Toibin, the Irish author of four previous novels, who adroitly imagines his way into James famously acute and sinuous mind. Toibin follows James from the collapse in 1895 of his hopes to find success as a playwright to the brink of that moment five years later when James embarks upon The Ambassadors, the first of the great novels of his major phase. Toibin captures the paradox that was James, whose sexuality remained an unsettled question and whose attempts at intimacy with either sex ended in confusion and disappointment. Always ready to gain a firmer purchase on his own impressions, James as Toibin imagines him moves through every room with all of his faculties alert and his sensibilities at the ready, all the while misreading his own needs and longings.