Thursday, July 09, 2009

BROOKLYN by Colm Toibin (2009)

Eilis Lacey comes of age in post-WWII small town Ireland where opportunities to live an independent life are slim to none. When a New York priest who knows her family offers her a job there in a clothing store, she jumps at the chance to begin a new life abroad.

Although terribly homesick at first, Eilis soon adapts to life in the women's boarding house and writes letters to her widowed mother and charismatic sister Rose about life in NYC (working on the floor of the department store and studying to be a bookkeeper at night through the kindness of a parishioner) and how she is becoming familiar with its rhythms.

At an Irish-organized dance hall event, Eilis meets Tony, an Italian from a closeknit family of boys. Tony woos Eilis and convinces her to marry him secretly before she is called back to Ireland due to a family tragedy. Back in Ireland her life becomes constricted and Eilis yearns to return to her new life in New York.

Toibin writes so quietly and deftly that it is hard to believe that Eilis's story is not entirely true.

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