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Monday, November 18, 2013

Brooklyn: A Novel

My sister gave me a huge stack of books about a year or so ago, and I have been slowly making my way through them. Brooklyn by Colm Toibin was one of them.

 A young Irish woman is encouraged to leave her home and travel across the ocean to a faraway land called Brooklyn, where she can work and attend school to become a bookkeeper--her life-long dream. With the help of a local priest and some rare jewels of friendship, Eilis makes her way through those first agonizing months in a new culture. When she meets a gentleman that could be something special, Eilis discovers that life can change in an instant and that sometimes love is more than just butterflies in the stomach.

This book has the epic feel of a Bronte novel with sprinkles of classic New York literature thrown in for good measure (in the vein of The Godfather or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn). I enjoyed reading about places I know but decades prior to my familiarity. I liked that Eilis attending Brooklyn college was such a big deal at the time, and I knew well the living situation described in the book. Reading it felt deep and involved.

It was, however, the relationship between Eilis and Tony, her beloved, that I enjoyed exploring the most. I respected Eilis's practicality and level-headedness about love and her relationship, and it was wonderful to read about a young woman in the 1950's care so deeply about starting and holding on to her career as a bookkeeper. When, in the final section, she returns home to Ireland for a visit, I sat in fear the whole 60 pages that she wouldn't return to Brooklyn. Whether she does or not is not the point; rather, it's the terror the reader feels that she will lose the life she has built and will break Tony's heart that drives to reading of that last section.

Kindle copy on left, hard copy on right.

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