Monday, March 20, 2017

Book Review: "Brooklyn" by Colm Toibin

It is post-World War II, and like is manageable but not very promising in Eilis's small town in Ireland.  Her brothers have all left for England to find work, and her sister has a job in an office in town.  Eilis has studied bookkeeping, but can only get a one-day-a-week job in a shop to help earn money for her mother.  A priest from America knows Eilis's sister Rose, and offers to bring her to Brooklyn where a job is promised for her.  Eilis goes, and never expects to find herself happy there.  Meeting Tony could have something to do with it.  When tragedy hits her home in Ireland, Eilis is forced to question where she (and her heart) truly belongs.

This is the book that my library book group will be talking about this month.  I had been looking forward to it, as I was curious about the movie (which I wouldn't watch until I read the book) and I hadn't read anything by Tóibín before.

This is one story of an immigrant's experience.  Eilis comes to America and is surrounded by the unfamiliar, though she does have the benefit of speaking and understanding the language.  She finds herself thoroughly homesick and works through it by taking courses at the university at night after working all day.  She falls in love with a wonderful man and all looks good.  But when she is returns to Ireland for a visit, she is overwhelmed by the familiarity of it and it confuses her.  Where does she really belong?  Where is home?

This takes a good look at these questions through Eilis and the relationships she develops where ever she is.  The language is sparse and a little cold, which makes the rare emotional scenes pack a serious punch.  This is hugely character driven, which can make it seem slow otherwise.  It was all lovely to read, but I felt like the first time I was really engaged with what was happening was when she was on the ship to America.  It wasn't a pleasant trip for Eilis, but it was the first time I felt actually connected to her.  There are moments like this here and there through the novel, which made it not the best reading experience for me.  I liked it enough, though, and wasn't happy with it ending where it did.  I wanted to know more of what happens after that point!

by Colm Tóibín
Simon and Schuster, 2009
262 pages
Source:  Purchased


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