There is no doubt that Toibin is a solid writer. The book is finely crafted and there are no loose ends. The reader is taken on a journey – both physical and emotional – from Ireland to Brooklyn, New York, with the protagonist Eilis Lacey. The backdrop to this narrative is what makes it so interesting. 1950s Brooklyn, immigrant communities, the travails of travel across oceans by sea and the subtle climate of race relations. This aspect of the book, along with mention of fashions and trends is quite riveting. Eilis’ introduction to the trendy world of NY is presented in a comic and sad way – she discovers nylons and is in awe of their various colours. However, while this aspect of the text is convincing, there were many parts of Eilis’ character which were questionable. For example, how is she so easily led to Brooklyn, left out of the decision entirely. If this is simply a facet of the position of women during the 1950s then why is Rose, her sister, not a victim of the same fate? I was undecided and found the as a character Eilis was in part enchanting for the wonder she saw in the world and part irritating for her inability to make her own decisions and follow her instincts. Even the book’s end leaves the readers unsure of whether or not Eilis’ final decision to return to Brooklyn is a consequence of her own desire or merely a reaction to the words of another.
Unfortunately, I think that I was expecting greater things from this novel. I was therefore marginally disappointed. Did I enjoy it? Yes, it was a pleasant enough read, not at all taxing and certainly not time consuming. If you are looking for this type of book then I would definitely recommend it to you! If you are after something that resonates more then I suggest you look elsewhere.
Buy the book on kindle here: Brooklyn: A Novel