Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

#14: Brooklyn (Colm Toibin)

on June 24, 2015

Completing this book marks the 1/3 mark in my Library Shelf project (book #7) and is the second of four novels by Colm Toibin on my shelf. I have a huge classic novel looming in the background that is calling my name since I had planned to read one of the Tolstoy novels during the first half of this project. (Can you tell that I am intimidated by War and Peace and Anna Karenna?)

I was first introduced to Colm Toibin’s writing when I began the Library Shelf project and read The Heathers Blazing. The current novel, Brooklyn, is another novel that pleasantly surprised me on this journey. The story follows a young Irish girl from her provincial home to the excitement of Brooklyn, New York in the mid-twentieth century. While in Brooklyn, Eilis becomes a strong, independent woman. She gains confidence as she trains to be a bookkeeper. Eilis learns much about modern society and the rights of women as she explores American fashion and converses with her fellow residents in Mrs. Kehoe’s boarding house. A trip to a Saturday night dance sponsored by the church begins her education about men, race relations, sexuality, and love.

In the final section of the novel, Eilis feels the pull of her Irish home because of the loss of her beloved sister. As she cares for her mother, Eilis finds herself enjoying the familiarity of Ireland and the respect she is given because of her American experience. Our vibrant heroine now finds herself torn between her past and the new life she has forged for herself in America. Toibin does not settle for a simple solution to bring the novel to its conclusion; the reader feels Eilis’ uncertainty as she carefully weighs her decision.

Brooklyn was especially moving for me. The text is lyrical. The emotions parallel my own as I prepare for my own future in light of the responsibilities and duties associated with home. I’m looking forward to reading Toibin’s remaining novels in this project — The Empty Family and The Master — to see if I will enjoy them just as much as the ones I’ve read so far.



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