“…towards the thought that she was going to lose this world for ever, that she would never have an ordinary day again in this ordinary place, that the rest of her life would be a struggle with the unfamiliar”.
“For each day, she thought, she needed a whole other day to contemplate what had happened and store it away, get it out of her system so that it did not keep her awake at night or fill her dreams with flashes of what had actually happened and other flashes that had nothing to do with anything familiar, but were full of rushes of colour or crowds of people, everything frenzied and fast.”
“She was nobody here. It was not just that she had no friends and family; it was rather that she was a ghost in this room, in the streets on the way to work, on the shop floor. Nothing meant anything.”
“”Would any one do?”
“No, I like you.”
“Yes, but if I wasn’t there? Would you just pick another?”
“No, if you weren’t there, I would walk home all sad looking at the ground.””
“But I mean friends. I was never good at making friends. I always felt that people didn’t like me, or didn’t know what to make of me.”
“For the moment, most of them were remembered by the living, but it was a memory slowly fading as each season passed.”
Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the years following World War Two. Though skilled at bookkeeping, she cannot find a job in the miserable Irish economy. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America–to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood “just like Ireland”–she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind.
Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, a blond Italian from a big family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. He takes Eilis to Coney Island and Ebbets Field, and home to dinner in the two-room apartment he shares with his brothers and parents. He talks of having children who are Dodgers fans. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love with Tony, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.
I originally came across the movie version of Brooklyn a few years ago ( I love movies having to do with the 1940’s and 1950’s). I initially watched the movie around the time it came out in 2015 and it wasn’t until recently that I found out the movie was originally a book written by Colm Tóibín in 2010.
I typically will not read a book AFTER I have seen the movie because I already have an idea of what the characters and scenery look like. However, since I had heard so many great things about the book and loved the movie, I decided to give it a try.
The book took me exactly 23 days to read and to some, that is obviously a very long time. I usually would have given up reading a book if it was taking this long to read, but I wanted to soak in every little detail of this book.
Tóibín’s writing was simple, yet poetic. Nothing too crazy happened in this story, but the writer was so detailed in the daily life and struggles of Eilis Lacey leaving her home in Ireland to move to the America’s on her own.
It’s mind boggling to think that people move across the country, let alone to another continent not knowing anyone and being expected to start a new life. For example, my great grandmother came through to Ellis Island on her own during the end of the 1800’s when she was only 10 years old. I couldn’t even imagine what she thought or went through as she traveled to the states not knowing anyone.
There were several moments in the book that you could easily have related to what Eilis was going through. From leaving your family and the familiar, to coming to a new place and struggling to find your place, to unexpectedly meeting someone and again struggling with the decision of whether or not to take a risk and be with them.
This book was incredibly pleasant and beautiful and I highly recommend it to anyone.
(PS: I am currently re-watching the movie version of Brooklyn, and they really did an amazing job of keeping true to the book)