I just finished Brooklyn by Colm Toibin and I loved it. What a wonderful read...so elegantly and beautifully written.
Brooklyn tells the story of Eilis Lacey a bright twenty-something girl in Ireland in the1950s. Eilis has a part-time job at a local shop. Her family dreams of a better life for her so together with an Irish Catholic priest, they arrange for her to live and work in the United States. Eilis feels indifferent about it and thus is almost powerless to stop her mother and sister from plotting her move. Before she knows it she's on a ship bound for New York. After a bout of homesickness she slowly adjusts to her new life in Brooklyn, working at a department store during the day and attending bookkeeping classes in the evenings. She lives in a boarding house with various other Irish women and attends parish dance parties with them every Friday night. Before long she meets Tony, a charming Italian American young man who quickly falls in love with her. Just when everything is going so well, Eilis receives shocking news from home.
I just couldn't put this book down. From page one, I was riveted by Eilis' quite ordinary life and her everyday trials and tribulations. I loved Toibin's writing...so clean, crisp yet also compelling. Not a sentence wasted. It takes a brilliant writer to turn a simple story of a young immigrant where nothing much happens into a suspenseful read.
I thought Toibin's depiction of homesickness was so true as was his description of returning home and just settling in again to the old life. Anyone who's been an expatriate can thoroughly identify with Eilis' feelings. I loved his descriptions of small town life in Ireland and bustling New York in the fifties. He described everything so vividly that I felt I was actually there. The ending was definitely conflicting. After I finished it, I wasn't sure if I would have done what Eilis did in the end. However, as I write this review, three days after finishing the book, I'm now convinced she did the right thing. Brooklyn is achingly and quietly beautiful. A book that lingers in your thoughts long after you've finished it.
Have you read Brooklyn? What did you think of it? Did you agree with the choice Eilis made?