Saturday, 23 January 2016

Book Review: Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

Read: January 21-23   Verdict: 5 Stars

This is definitely a book for people who have left home and felt homesickness away from family and friends. A tale of finding yourself a new place but making it somewhere you can call home.

Brooklyn is about a young Irish woman called Eilish (I-LISCH or A-LISCH) who travels to American to make a better life for herself when 1950s country life in Ireland isn't offering her any opportunity for a better future. Eilish soon finds herself settling into the strange life she's found herself and Brooklyn and even experiences falling in love. But tragedy strikes and when Eilish returns home she's faced with the choice of two different lives - returning to Brooklyn and leaving behind her family and her true home. Or staying in Ireland, a place that her heart and soul loves but can't offer her what she needs.

While this was a bit slow-going at first, I soon found the writing style in this book really lovely. There was a soft lilting tone to the way Colm Toibin was able to tell Eilish's story and it was very lulling and gentle and I really enjoyed reading it. I really felt for Eilish, who without really wanting to found herself uprooted and completely alone, thousands of miles from her. Overall, I did find her a rather stoic and serious character. And I thought it funny at the times where she found her voice and became very stubborn how she was able to do that in a strange country yet when she was at home in Ireland she became rather voiceless in front of her mother and Rose.

I also enjoyed how Eilish was Irish but not overruled by her typical Irish Catholic faith. She went out with Tony and enjoyed a bit of kissing and caressing. I did find it funny how Catholic she suddenly became after the bold thing and forced Tony to go to confession, and went herself. But she was definitely in charge of herself when it came to relationships and sex and seemed to know what she wanted. She wasn't too innocent like we sometimes see with young girls and their first time in books. I also found the sex scene, particularly because it was her first time, to be very realistic. It was definitely refreshing.

I'm not sure if the love triangle in this book really qualifies as a love triangle. It's more of a love triangle between Eilish and two different worlds. She had such a terrible decision that she had to make, even though she had more or less forced her hand before she even returned home. While I really liked Tony and thought he was a really lovely guy, I couldn't help but root for Jim a bit as I found him, in the end, to be very charming.

I think I would have liked a bit more of a conclusion. I think it's open a bit to interpretation. Did Eilish agree with the choice she made or did she feel forced by obligation? Would she always look back and think of the life she could have had with the person she left behind? I would have really loved an epilogue or something of an older Eilish looking back.

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