Review of Albert Nobbs by George Moore

June 18, 2015

At last a book, or rather, a short novel that shows the eternal conflict of women between being herself or not. “To be, or not to be” is also the unforgettable doubt asked by Hamlet, the great masterpiece by William Shakespeare, but with this book the question seems to be unanswered. This book, that I am reviewing, is Albert Nobbs, namely the novel written by George Moore and set in Ireland, precisely in Dublin in XIX century. At that time, things weren’t like today, but they were utterly different.

Women were not such and were considered only to marry men and have children, with no work and no social role. The novel, titled Albert Nobbs, tells about a woman who, in order to escape her sad destiny, decides to disguise as a man and to work as a servant at one the most important Hotel in Dublin. The disguising starts at fourteen and continues nearly for the entire life of this girl. The woman chooses to be named Alber Nobbs. The life and the work as a servant are very boring, because the false man Albert is mute, discreet and unassuming. He, or rather she, cares only to earn money and live a flat life. At this stage of the book a reader could wonder if as a woman, Albert would have lived better.

But the plot evolves into a very interesting turn of events that lead the servant to reveal her true identity. One night, indeed, Albert is forced to share her bed with a colleague. While they are falling asleep, a flea enters under the shirt of Albert, who must take it off by revealing he is a woman. The colleague, however, apparently an earnest man, soon after confesses he is also a she and has been living for years with a woman who knows her secret and pretends to be her wife.

This upsetting revelation pushes Albert to seek a better life and to find a life companion. Albert meets a whore who seems to accept the disguise of the servant. This strange character wants to only live a normal life, but without the things that are in a normal life, namely sex with a partner and so on. Albert is not gay or lesbian, is simply a person who wants to live her way. The book is written in order to show the complex behaviour of this character, even though some chapters can be difficult to understand.

This novel is very short anyway, about 70 pages for the Kindle edition and not over 121 for the paperback copy. George Moore is, indeed an Irish novelist lived between 1852 and 1933, an epoch in which short stories were much appreciated. The plot is unique and very original, for this reason, in 2011, a movie was drawn from the novel. To play the role of Albert Nobbs, it was called the famous American actress Glenn Close. Buy the movie

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