Thursday, June 18, 2009

Book 68: Brooklyn

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

A friend of mine recently spent her four day weekend in Dublin, and picked this up while she was over there - I ran out of books in the field so she lent me this one.

This novel definitely doesn't have any huge plot developments, the main character isn't going to go out and change the world, and all in all, probably leads a rather average existence. However, it was a short, steady novel and while maybe not groundbreaking or super exciting, Eilis was relatable and reliable. In ways she reminded me very much of an old friend of mine that I've lost touch with. Occasionally, I would wonder if she's really making any decisions on her own, or if she's just going with the flow because she doesn't know what else to do/ doesn't think she has other options (might be referring to my friend more), but her decisions are easy to understand.

Set in the '50s, Eilis, the main protagonist, has always expected to spend her entire life in the same city she was born and grew up in. She expects to have a traditional life: work until she marries, give up her job and have children. The only problem is that there are no jobs in her home town of Enniscorthy, Ireland, so when a priest, Father Flood, comes back home to visit from New York, and hears of her situation, he offers to help her emigrate. With her mother and sister's blessing and support, Eilis takes the long trip across the Atlantic, and slowly begins to adjust to life in Brooklyn as a shop girl while taking night classes and dating a young Italian.

Eventually she returns home for a visit, and suddenly the life she expected to have before she left is available to her - everything she could have possibly dreamed of is now a possibility, but she still has obligations in Brooklyn so she has to make a decision.

One of the reasons I felt like Eilis just went along with things had very much to do with her relationship with Tony, and that's the part reminded me most of my former friend. While she obviously likes Tony, he seems much more involved in the relationship than she does, and at times, I couldn't help but wonder if she really liked him, or just felt like she should, or just went along with it to be agreeable. She herself struggles about the pace of their relationship but mostly just goes along with him. Part of it probably is that she is more reserved with her emotions; however, as I said when my friend first started dating this one guy, I had a similar reaction to that relationship since whenever she talked about the guy she just didn't seem excited. At all.

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