Brooklyn

I bought this book as part of a Book Club and I can’t say that I would have picked it up off my own back… It is a Costa Novel Award Winner and has recently been turned into a film with Saoirse Ronan as the main character. But as first impressions go, I was expecting a dramatic, love triangle, frustrating read… that is kind of not what I got, at least not in how I expected it…

We follow a young girl called Eilis who lives in a town in Ireland with her mother and sister. It is the early 1950s and opportunities are thin on the ground for Eilis. This being the case, her sister organises for her to move to America and we follow this process. Through the homesickness, the strangeness of meeting new people, finding your own feet when everything has been stripped away and the natural progress of moving countries, Colm Toibin gives us a true insight into the mixed feelings and the rollercoaster that is emmigration. When disaster strikes at home in Ireland Eilis is left with a difficult decision… Where is her life now?

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The way that Toibin writes about the intimidating life event is so authentic and grounding. I found myself relating a lot with Eilis when it came to her feelings about both places and countries. As someone who has moved both countries (from UK to China) and cities (Manchester to London), I understand the level of homesickness and un-belongingness (yes, I just created a word) that comes with such a giant step. And Toibin echoes it beautifully. When Eilis goes back to Ireland (whether forever or a short time, I shall not tell you!), her experience there is so realistic to me and I truly related. I love that. There was nothing showy in it, no over-used drama, just a human experience in all it’s glory. Excellent work.

I enjoyed the first half of the novel more than the last half. I enjoyed watching Eilis building a life for herself, both the good and bad, the sad and happy. But when certain things start happening… I got so mad at her! I found it rather frustrating…

Eilis as a character was a little too weak-kneed for me in opinions and inner grit. I would have preferred for her to be a bit stronger in that and I don’t feel like we really got to know her in that way. She got a bit soppy at times and open to manipulation, I found myself wanting to slap some sense into her… but only at specific and certain times! But then all people have flaws and just because she is fictional is not to say that she should be perfect, I guess.

I adored the other characters though, I found them fascinating as I did all of their relationships. I also loved the ending, it was the best decision and ending for me personally. I believe that I may have thought differently about the whole book if it had gone differently, it would have been at least closed angrily!

The entire journey was well done and I absolutely adored the genuine thoughtfulness of the book. I would pick up another of Toibin’s books in a heartbeat if this is a snippet of what he is capable of.

Devoured the book… Now for the film…

 

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

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