Colm Tóibín‘s sixth novel, “Brooklyn”, is set in Brooklyn and Ireland in the early 1950s, when one young woman crosses the ocean to make a new life for herself.
Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War Two. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America — to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood “just like Ireland” — she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind.
Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, who loves the Dodgers and his big Italian family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love with Tony, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.
It seems to me that “Brooklyn” by Colm Toibin is a novel that you either think is very good or quite unimpressive. Looking at reviews, opinion seems to swing from one extreme to the other with regularity.
Personally, I think that this is a wonderful novel! Why is this my opinion? To begin with, Colm Toibin’s writing style suits me completely. He is able to paint pictures with his words, which feed my imagination. His writing flows in a way which made me want to read on and on. His characters seemed very real to me and they evoked a variety of emotions.
I liked the simplicity of the plot, which tells the story of young Eilis Lacey and her emigration to America from a small town in Ireland. This had not been part for her future until her sister, Rose and a priest, Father Flood, came up with a fully-fledged plan for Eilis to seek a better future in New York. Eilis settles in Brooklyn and then her story unfolds. I will not say more about the plot, as I don’t like spoilers, but she learns a lot about life in a very short time.
I was moved by several episodes in the novel, as they touched on experiences in my own life. The emotions described by the author were so authentic – homesickness, extreme grief, falling in love.
This is not a showy, sensational novel; it is just a very good one that I shall remember for a long time.