Brooklyn by Colm Toibin, published October 2015 by Penguin Books.
Goodreads Synopsis: It is Ireland in the early 1950s and for Eilis Lacey, as for so many young Irish girls, opportunities are scarce. So when her sister arranges for her to emigrate to New York, Eilis knows she must go, leaving behind her family and her home for the first time.
Arriving in a crowded lodging house in Brooklyn, Eilis can only be reminded of what she has sacrificed. She is far from home – and homesick. And just as she takes tentative steps towards friendship, and perhaps something more, Eilis receives news which sends her back to Ireland. There she will be confronted by a terrible dilemma – a devastating choice between two worlds.
The Book Review
I’ve heard a lot of reviewers recommending Toibin’s books (and Brooklyn in particular), so as someone who has never read his work before, I was excited to start this. A novel featuring 1950s Ireland, immigration to America, and a bit of romance thrown in? Yes, please!
I enjoyed the tone of the novel, and the Irish setting with the occasionally stereotypical Irish villagers. There were some good characters, along with a surprising and heart-breaking plot twist, and overall it was a decent coming-of-age tale that might not have been earth-shattering, but it was quietly confident in its own story.
While the blurb wasn’t misleading in content, I did feel overall that the book was largely quite underwhelming, and I’m undecided as to whether its simplicity is intentional and striking, or unintentional and lacking. Proudly proclaimed on the cover as the winner of the Costa Novel Award, I think I was expecting something more from this book.
It was an inoffensive and reasonably enjoyable read (as well as a quick one at only 252 pages), but I did feel that the last few chapters were rushed in comparison to the rest of the novel, and the ending was left far too open-ended for my personal preferences. It’s a book that I’m glad to have read, but one I don’t think I’ll be returning to.
Making the most of my time off over Christmas, I decided to watch the movie adaptation as soon as I finished the book. The movie is a very close adaptation, with the only noticeable change being a shorter changing room scene, and a more defined ending. If you don’t want to read the book, the movie is a great alternative.
Have you read Brooklyn, or seen the movie? What did you think? Would you recommend other Toibin novels? Let me know in the comments!