Book Review: Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin 005

This book was recommended by a woman in London who enjoyed it with her
book club.  I would like to have been at their discussion.

A brief online preview made it sound interesting and I borrowed it from the
library.  When I saw the cover, I wanted to start reading immediately!

Eilis Lacey is a young woman in her late teens living in a small town in Ireland with
her widowed mother and older sister, Rose. Rose is the pretty one, the successful
daughter.  She is the breadwinner in the family. Their three older brothers have
already left home and are working in other cities. Eilis is looking for a good job,
but so far has not found one. She takes business classes. Her small group of
girlfriends go to the local dances and generally get passed over by the popular boys.

Eilis is shy and her life seems lonely and sad.

At this point, I was wondering about the book. The characters seemed aloof, and I
wondered how Colm Toibin, the author, could write about, understand the feelings
and thoughts of a young woman. Maybe he grew up with sisters I think.  He seemed
to have the feel of Ireland, but maybe not quite on the pulse of knowing a
young woman and what she might be thinking. But I looked at the bookjacket and
found that Colm Toibin has written several novels and was twice shortlisted
for the Booker Prize. I decided I was mistaken, no doubt, and continued
reading with a little more confidence.

A visiting American priest says he can arrange a job for Eilis in Brooklyn, with a
lodging at an Irish boarding house near the church and near her work.  Without
much discussion, it is assumed that Eilis will leave home.

She comes to America and moves into a close-knit Irish part of Brooklyn and gets
a job at a department store.  The landlady is a mother hen to about 9 Irish girls
with various personalities and, for Eilis, life in America in 1948 begins to evolve.

There is a quiet little plot as Eilis finds her way, homesick and lonely.  I’ll
tell you that she meets a boy, an Italian, but I’ll let you continue with the book
without my spoiling it for you.

I’ve been finished with the book for about a week now, and looking back, I think
Toibin had his confident hand on the storyline.  But I still think there was a bit
of a missing link—I’m not sure he really connected with that girl in the story.
And I’m not sure that we became connected either.

Still, the premise is great, and it was a quick read–didn’t really want to
put it down.
What do YOU think?

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2 Responses to Book Review: Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

  1. Alex says:

    This is a book which had divided readers in all three of my book groups. Some of us loved it, others hated it and yet a third group said, “So what?” I’m a massive fan of Toibin’s work so perhaps not the best person to ask, but if you feel you could try him again give ‘The Blackwater Lightship’ a go.

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