Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Brooklyn (2009) by Colm Tóibín #ReadingIrelandMonth24

🔶️ Set in the 1950s of Ireland, the main character is Eilis Lacey, an intelligent young girl of 19, living with her mother and sister Rose. She's learning bookkeeping and wishes to work as bookkeeper, but no works available in their small town of Enniscorthy. Unlike her confident and independent sister Rose, Eilis is more obscure, passive, and obedient. She always do what others tell or expect her to do.

🔶️ Through Rose, a priest who's coming from New York City promised Eilis a job in a department store in Brooklyn. Obedient as always, out to Brooklyn she move, leaving her beloved home town. Not because she really wants it - in fact, she's a bit reluctant to leave - but more because Rose and her mother subtly push her out. Her mother likes Rose better, and is quite the selfish type of a parent.

🔶️ Thanks to Father Flood, Eilis is settled in a respectable boarding house and started her work nicely. She even takes a night classes in bookkeeping, planning to work as accountant later on. But she quickly feels uprooted, lonesome, and doesn't belong anywhere. So, when a young Italian plumber called Tony courts her, Eilis just naturally accepts him in her life. I doubted if she's really in love with him. Tony is head over heels fallen for her, but Eilis is just goes with the flow, so to speak.

🔶️ When she begins to feel happy with her new life, a surprising news came from Ireland, that forces her to come home. Tony persuades her to marry him in secret before leaving, as he knows her so well that her hometown might lure her to never come back to Brooklyn. Once again she complies with his suggestion. Tony wasn't wrong. Her mother once again steers her to marry a local beau, in order to make her settle in Ireland. Eilis never told her mother of her secret marriage, and she keeps procrastinating in making decision whether to stay on her own land, or to return to her husband. For an indecisive person like Eilis, it is rather amusing to see what the ending would be. But it's worth the waiting, as we got to enjoy Tóibín's beautiful writing - warm and engaging.

🔶️ I loved to read Eilis' loneliness and grieve; somehow I could relate with her loved one:

"...that was like how she felt when ... died and she watched them closing the coffin, the feeling that ... would never see the world again and she would never be able to talk to ..." or " actual pain that...was dead and there were things like this, ordinary things, that ...would never know, that would not matter" - those are what I've been feeling since my father passed away eight months ago. I'm able to let him go; I believe my father "lives" in peace in heaven now, but I still can't move on from feeling a pang of not being able to talk to him or share anything anymore.

🔶️ Another thing that I could well relate with:
"...Was it difficult being an only child?"
"It matters more now, I think, when my parents are getting older and there's just me...
" - How true it is! And so, you can imagine how this book got me to think and reflex a lot. Not only these relatable things, but also personalities of the characters and what induced them to act as they did. Eilis and her mother are interesting individuals; Eilis' habit of procrastinating reminded me much of Lily Bart from The House of Mirth. I'm also amused by Eilis' mother's attempt to keep Eilis at home with her. It seems selfish, but I could understand why. Sometimes you just can't help it.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2

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Hosted by: Cathy @ 746 Books

1 comment:

  1. I loved this too. Looking forward to the sequel - Long Island - out soon!


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