Brooklyn- Colm Toibin
Updated: Jan 6, 2019
My friend Amy, fetched this book from her bookshelf one day and told me that this was her favourite author ever. I always love it when people recommend books for me to read because most of the time they tend to be pretty awesome reads, just like this one. I recognised Brooklyn because it came out as a very famous Sundance romantic drama movie back in 2015 starring that pretty Irish actress that I can never pronounce her name called 'Saoirse Ronan'. That movie was based on this book by Colm Toibin. I'm glad I never actually got around to watching the movie which meant I could enjoy the book even more!
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin is based in early 1950s Ireland and is a coming of age story following a young girl called Eilis Lacey who has never left her small town home in Ireland before. After WW2, times are hard for her and her peers to find any kind of employment in her town. Many of her friends and family have relocated to various countries to try and find work. Eilis, who is skilled in bookkeeping, is presented with a similar opportunity by an Irish priest in Brooklyn. She decides to leave her small town, her vivacious sister and dependant mother and head to an unfamiliar Brooklyn which the priest says will be filled with Irish immigrants and that it would be similar to living in Ireland. Eilis makes the big move to Brooklyn where she begins working at a department clothing store in hopes to eventually advance to some office administrative work. During her stay in Brooklyn, she begins to feel homesick and adrift from this unknown place and unruly house mates, then out of the blue, she meets this charismatic American guy and begins to fall in love. Eilis starts to feel something close to happiness and suddenly, news from her home town in Ireland forces Eilis to quickly return home. While Eilis is in Ireland she begins to feel conflicted with her old comforts and her new possibilities and opportunities in Brooklyn and has to make the tough decision on whether to stay in her small town in Ireland, or return to her new life and love in Brooklyn.
This is probably one of my most memorable, tender and emotional stories that I have read so far this year. Colm Toibin is an incredible story teller. His writing is really something else, I found this book very engaging and spellbinding. I was totally thinking about reading it when I wasn't reading it which is always a great sign, and wanting to know what would happen next. Even though it's a simple story, it really kept you gripped and I had no idea how it was going to end at all! No matter how many times I tried to guess, it really was a surprising ending. I would very much want to read any of his other books purely based on his writing style. He's very talented and a very straight forward writer which I like, none of that mumbo jumbo wordy descriptive crap that sometimes ruins a book. This was pure good writing at its best.
The only negative comment I had was the reference in the book about the 'coloured folk'. I do understand it was the 1950s and it was during the time when segregation was at its peak, although progress was being made during this time with the civil rights movement, it still was an issue for black people in America. The writer couldn't have avoided these facts if he were to stay true to the time in which the book was based. That being said, there were a couple of scenes in the book that straight up put me off. It could have been written a little more thoughtfully, in my opinion. I mean, black people were not some kind of exotic animal, they're people. Two eyes, one nose, one mouth. End of story. I've read a whole lotta historical fiction novels by many different white & black authors and some can be more 'offensive' than others. Other than that hiccup, I liked the book. It was a tad slow to start with, but really what did it for me was the writing. Simple and very efficient and elegant. It's one of those books that pays off at the end.
You should totally read this book if your from Ireland, lotta Irish references, down to the way everyone spoke in it. I found myself doing an itty bitty Irish accent at times while reading it. Also just a generally great book if your after a good romantic drama story. Maybe I'll now watch the movie at some point!