Brooklyn By Colm Toibin

I confess to mixed feelings about this book. It is well written and some passages, such as the boat trip to New York, and Eilis’ feelings of alienation when she arrives in America,  are gripping and engaging.  Also the period details of the shops, the Irish small town claustrophobia, the power of the Catholic Church are all realistically evoked. But it was difficult to empathise with the ‘heroine’. Is she passive, and even weak, submitting always to the will of others, and we never know what she actually feels?

Or is it a sensitive and truthful portrayal of a young sheltered girl of her period and background, where feelings are repressed and you just get on with whatever life throws at you?

The author’s use of the more objective third person technique, known as ‘deep third’, where we view everything through the protagonist’s eyes but without the subjectivity of the first person, may contribute to my lack of involvement. It’s a story where a woman must choose which of two men she loves and wants to spend the rest of her life with, but where’s the passion?WP_20160606_002

And what about the enigmatic ending? Was she glad to go back to Brooklyn or just accepting of her fate?

I’m looking forward to the film to see if it comes down on one side or the other.




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