Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Brooklyn


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?

21 comments:

  1. Ahhh, I loved this book, it was one of the highlights of my Christmas reading. And thinking about Eilis choices - who knows whether she did the right thing. It definitely definitely stayed with me this book.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I absolutely loved this one too - such gorgeous writing and characterisation. I would have made the other choice I think...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very intriguing. This has been on my TBR list since it came out and quite looking forward to it, especially after reading this review!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Toibin is an author I'd very much like to try, but haven't found the opportunity to just yet. I read mixed reviews of this book last year, but I think I should give it a shot and see what I think of it for myself!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I liked this book; it was a first by this author for me.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have not read Brooklyn, but you just made me want to! (:

    ReplyDelete
  7. "It takes a brilliant writer to turn a simple story of a young immigrant where nothing much happens into a suspenseful read."

    I couldn't agree more! I loved the book, but it's hard to say which was the right choice...

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have yet to read this book, but after reading your excellent review, I feel as if I must read this book. It just sounds so interesting and engaging. Thanks for the heads up on this book - it is now on my TBR list. Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Oooh! I'm intrigued. This is shooting to the top of my list.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'm glad this book has gotten such great reviews as it's chosen for the One Book, One Chicago selection this spring. Yay!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm with The Lit Witch - definitely going to read this now.

    Just discovered your blog and it is so great! Immediately clicked on the Rumer Godden tag and was taken to reviews of The Greengage Summer which I had been thinking about only this week. Serendipity. I hope you don't mind me linking to you on my blog, I am a new fan.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I have ten pages of this book left to read and I think it really is fabulous. You hit the nail on the head, when you mentioned how he doesn't waste words. He has definitely turned a simple story into a wonderful book. I have to say I prefer your American cover to our British one.

    ReplyDelete
  13. This sounds like a very interesting book-I wonder how her experience as an expat would relate to mine!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I am a fan of this author - I just did a double review of two of his novels on my blog today.
    I am really looking forward to Brooklyn - the immigrant storyline intrigues me.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I've not had the pleasure to read this one yet, but it is on my list!

    ReplyDelete
  16. This sounds wonderful and one to add to my tbr pile.

    ReplyDelete
  17. So funny for me to find this post today! I was just thinking of this book and still torn about the decision at the end. Mind you I read this book in JANUARY. I guess it does stick. As a Yank who's Irish grandparents decided to stay in the States, I'd much rather be in Ireland, so I think she should have stayed. But then again the Italian lad (pronounced AYE-talian) was such a sweet kid.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I absolutely love books with this sort of quiet beauty. I need to get my hands on this before too long.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Brooklyn was so evocative of the emigre experience and of homesickness in general. It does linger and resonate long after reading that last page. The choice made by Ellis was unbearably poignant and, no, I didn't altogether agree with it but it was a tough call.

    Such a simple yet emotionally-charged read.

    ReplyDelete
  20. This book sounds so amazing! The plot sounds very interesting and this definitely seems like something I would like. Thanks for the great review!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Thanks for all your comments. For those who read the book, I just wanted to further comment about the ending (Spoiler Alert)...after I finished the book, I felt that Eilis should have stayed in Ireland but days later I was convinced she did the right thing. I believe that being on holiday made her see everything through 'rose-coloured' glasses. Who knows what this Irish boy was really like? He was rude to her after all in the beginning of the novel. I think she would never have married Tony if she hadn't loved him and I think she would never have made the decision she made if she wasn't convinced it was truly the right one.

    ReplyDelete

There was an error in this gadget

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails