Saturday, March 24, 2012

Book Review: Brooklyn

I’ve had this book by Colm Toibin on my TBR list for a few years, but it really jumped out at me as I was searching the library shelves for books to take with me on our trip to NYC. The timing was perfect. I read this immigrant’s story while staying in Chelsea, just a couple blocks away from the subway stop where the main character disembarks, leading to one memorable scene.

Eilis is the youngest sibling in an Irish family, and her sister and brothers come up with the funds to send her to Brooklyn, hoping that she will be able to have a better life there. Eilis seems powerless to refuse and is swept along with their plans, although she really has no desire to relocate to America. She is a girl who hasn’t yet found herself, having always been under the shadow of her vivacious, beautiful and compassionate sister, Rose.

Once in Brooklyn, Eilis becomes more solid. She has a sharp mind for bookkeeping and begins taking classes at Brooklyn College while working full time. She handles her new life with careful study and composure, figuring out the best way to navigate this surprising new world.

She balances waves of homesickness with determination to succeed in America. Eventually she meets Tony, an Italian, and comes to the proverbial fork in the road.

That’s the story in a nutshell, but Toibin is a graceful, unhurried storyteller. He takes time to consider the small details in Eilis’s life and those of other characters without necessarily drawing everything into the main story. So much that happens serves to round out Eilis’s character, and we are part of her growing process.  There are small “a-ha” moments, times when Eilis reflects on the way the world works and how she fits into it.

Brooklyn is a coming-of-age story, a romance, a slice of life, an immigrant’s story, all rolled into a tightly written but luxurious novel.

Linked up with Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books


Marbel said...

Sounds great - I've added it to my goodreads to-read list. And, anxious to hear the rest of the story on your NYC trip!

Heidi’sbooks said...

This sounds like a book I would enjoy. Does it seem to be historically accurate?