Sunday, October 6, 2013

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Scribner
Pages: 262

Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the years following WWII, living with her mother and older sister. She can’t find a descent-paying job, so she hires on working behind the counter of a grocer, who demands much yet pays only a pittance. When an Irish priest from America offers to sponsor Eilis, she takes off on the adventure of her life, traveling to and living in Brooklyn.

She finds work in a department story, and also finds Tony, a blond Italian from a big family, who slowly wins her love. But a tragedy back in her hometown turns her new adventure on its head, and she finds herself caught in an interesting dilemma.

Toibin has recently become one of my favorite writers, and this novel only made me appreciate his talent even more. It is an engaging and emotionally resonant story, the main characters show a wonderful depth, and the prose is nothing less than stunningly beautiful.

Toibin skillfully captures the desperation, and also the hope and renewed energy of that time in America.  He also captures the youth and exuberance of his characters, and the reader has no choice but to feel their joy, their hope, and their pain. Bravo!

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