Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

Eilis lives with her widowed mother and older sister. It is Ireland in the 1950s and unable to find jobs her three brothers have moved to England to work. Eilis herself is having trouble finding employment. Her sister Rose has a good job with a local firm and tries to get Eilis in there, but to no avail. Then Father Flood, a priest visiting home from America says that he can get her a job at a department store in Brooklyn. So off to Brooklyn she goes.

Once there she finds herself terribly homesick. Fr. Flood arranges accommodation for her in a boarding house run by Mrs Kehoe, another immigrant from Ireland. The other women who rent rooms there are a mixed bunch, and there is nobody Eilis really bonds with. She misses the close relationship with mother and sister and being able to laugh at life's troubles with them. Gradually however she finds her feet, does well at work, and meets a young man, Tony, with whom she falls in love.

Just as she is making a life for herself in Brooklyn a family emergency calls her home. Then she has to make a decision - does she slot right back into her old life, or does she decide to continue with the new one on the other side of the Atlantic.

This is the first book by Colm Toibin I have read and I really enjoyed it. I loved the style of his writing which is very spare with no excesses. Eilis was such a well drawn character, sometimes so passive that I wanted to shake her, and then unexpectedly standing up for herself. I was actually nervous as I got the end of the book because I was worried that she would make the wrong decision. By that I mean the decision I thought she should make! Actually there were pros and cons whatever she decided, it wasn't a clear choice.

So I will definitely be looking out for more books by Colm Toibin. All recommendations gratefully received.


  1. I enjoyed reading your post - it was nice to see a different point why of view, because I read it and hated it! And I found it very difficult to decide why I didn't like it, but I think it was largely her passivity. I couldn't understand her at all. My review is here

  2. She was passive Christine, but I think it was offset by her bravery in going to America and making a life for herself. I think someone without any gumption at all would've completely floundered.