I absolutely love this book and give it 5*, which I rarely do. For me, 5* means true excellence. There is a spareness to the writing of Colm Tóibín which includes essential detail and excludes extraneous. I would not wish a single word to be changed or paragraph to be deleted, no passages seem surplus to requirement or confusing, no characters’ names are forgotten. There is no dramatic action, no mystery, no cliffhanger, simply the story of a young Irish girl who goes to Brooklyn and what happens to her there. Yes there is romance, but not in the commercial fiction sense of the term. Romance is just one element of the story.
It is 1950s rural Ireland. It is arranged by her elder sister and a family priest, that Eilish should go to America. It is deemed she has few prospects in Ireland. Brooklyn is a wonderful portrayal of 1950s Ireland and America, the attitudes, the social mores, the prejudices.
The drama comes from observing Eilish’s every step, her every thought, wondering what she will do next. The drama is in the small things. She feels so real. I wanted to say, ‘take a risk’ and ‘don’t’ and ‘go for it’. From the first few pages I was reeled in until I could not put the book down.
This is the sort of book which, having finished it, I almost wish I hadn’t read it; only so I can re-read it again as if it is the first time. It is not a new novel, it was published in 2009 and won the Costa Novel Award that year. It is now a film, which I haven’t seen. I’m not sure whether to, worrying that the film will spoil the book.
Read my review of Tóibín’s Nora Webster here. Sharp-eyed readers will spot a couple of references to Nora Webster in Brooklyn. It is not a sequel, but a stand-alone novel.
For more about the film, Brooklyn, starring Saiorse Ronan, read this review by The Independent.
If you like ‘Brooklyn’, try anything by these other Irish authors:-
‘Brooklyn’ by Colm Tóibín [UK: Penguin] Buy now
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