Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín | Book Review [spoiler free]

11/29/2020


Eilis Lacey is a young woman living in small-town Ireland. Though naturally skilled in bookkeeping, she is struggling to find work in the post-World War II economy. When an Irish priest visits from his new home in Brooklyn, he offers to sponsor Eilis so she can move abroad, work, study, and send money home. Not wanting to part from the life she's always known yet knowing that this is necessary for bettering her life, she accepts his offer and uproots her life. There starts her journey of womanhood, friendship, and love. 

In Brooklyn she is faced with a house of eccentric Irish women, all having moved abroad for work. They're playful, snarky, and religious. But wonderful. She begins work at a clothing boutique that is in the midst of change, having started carrying pantyhose for black women. And of course, she inevitably finds a man who she begins to love. But with the call of home never far from Eilis's heart, can she make Brooklyn her home?

I adored this novel. It had so much heart and I'm in awe at how well the author Colm Tóibín captured the intimate feel of home that ran throughout the story. I, myself, moved from my home in Wales to the States and it was a huge adjustment. I miss home terribly and haven't read such an accurate portrayal of a homesick character before. It tore at my heart. As a protagonist, Eilis starts out as timid - a girl who feels like her life is already mapped out in front of her. She's strong, yes, but almost shy. It was a joy to watch this young woman blossom into a person that her youngster self would've admired. Unlike so many other books I've read, her growth truly felt natural throughout the story and it was lovely how the changes in her were partly down to the people she surrounded herself with. It felt realistic.


What I didn't expect from this book were the little nods to the way the world worked back then. It touched on topics such as feminism, sexuality, marriage, and racism. But yet, it never strayed from the era that it was set in. It's weird as the writing and characters felt modern, and yet the overall feel of the book was old. It was a beautiful mix. 

I didn't have any major issues with the book, I only wish that it had been a tad longer so we could've really delved into each of the side characters. Especially those in Ireland. I could see people having a problem with the ending as it's partly open, but I personally liked that. It kept the story intimate. Side-note: I'd like to quickly mention my amazement at how a middle-aged man managed to write such a realistic young woman as his protagonist. And he truly nailed the mother/daughter dynamic that so many of us have. What a rarity! 

Overall, if you liked Normal People by Sally Rooney or The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, I wholeheartedly recommend you pick up Brooklyn. Now I'm off to watch the movie adaption.

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