Someone must have been reading Brooklyn for a book club or some sort of discussion group, as the copy I borrowed was full of scribbled notes that reminded me of my English Literature teacher in school. I had to learn to ignore them (the scribbling, not my teacher).
Brooklyn is a few years in the life of Eilis Lacey, a young Irish girl who is living a quiet existence in Enniscorthy. Her mother is a widow, her sister Rose is confident, assured, and a dab hand at golf. She’s got three brothers who’ve gone off to England to work.
There is no work for Eilis, even though she’s studying to be a bookkeeper and accountant. She is given the opportunity to go to America (Brooklyn, where else) and start a new life and career there. And so she goes.
The storytelling is so evocative. Maybe it’s because my sister used to live in Brooklyn, but I did feel like I was on this great journey with our protagonist. I’ve never had a problem with living away from home and I’ve never felt homesick, but I could see Eilis’ pain through the words on the page. It’s amazing how times have changed so much, but the sense of duty and family does stay the same. If you have a close family, you’ll drop everything and go to them as soon as you can if something terrible happens.
I particularly liked Colm Tóibín’s descriptions of Eilis’ romantic relationships. They weren’t the all-encompassing, over-emotional ‘true love’-type scenarios, but perhaps more grounded in reality. I got her confusion and conflicting feelings. I’m not sure I’d have done what she did if I’d been in her shoes, but I totally understand how and why she ended up doing it.
This is one of those sweet and unpatronising holiday reads that you’d actually remember and recommend to friends after you’re done.