Toibin imagines the life of Thomas Mann, focusing less on his work and artistic development than on his unconventional marriage, his complicated relationship with Germany through both world wars, and his homoerotic preoccupation with young men. A vivid and engaging read if you're curious about Mann, particularly the strains of suicide, open homo- and bisexuality, and marriages of convenience that seem to recur in the family.
However, be warned:
This book led me back to the writings of Mann himself. I picked up Doctor Faustus, but have to confess I threw it down again after 50 pages or so. If you adore tracing and analyzing the fine points and historical development of theology, linguistics, musical theory, philosophy and lots of other -ologies and -osophies, you will love this book. I have great faith that it will all lead to a profound and satisfying epiphany. However, if you're hoping for an actual story that moves along at a reasonable pace, run away.
I'm just starting The Master, also by Colm Toibin, which imagines the life of Henry James, beginning with the crushing failure of his first attempt at a play. Toibin seems to insinuate a closet homosexuality here as well, though not all scholars are on board with this idea. More later when I finish the book.