Brooklyn is the latest book from Irish author Colm Toibin - and the first book of his that I have read.
Brooklyn is the story of a young Irish woman, Eilis Lacey, who migrates from her small Irish town to Brooklyn in the 1950's in search of employment and opportunity. This decision is in some ways forced upon Eilis by her older sister, Rose and her mother who clearly want her to achieve but are desperate for her to stay at home with them at the same time. There are hints and glimpses into the life of Eilis's family - her 3 older brothers have all moved to England for work and her father died in the not too distant past - but despite these glimpses we don't really learn all that much about the extended family.
When Eilis arrives in Brooklyn she is struck by culture shock and homesickness and the narrative of this section of the book is all about her attempts to fit in and make a life for herself in America.
This book is so simple in many ways - the story of a girl who moves away, she goes to work, goes home to the boarding house she resides in with other young women, she goes to night classes and she goes to the parish dance on a Friday night. All things that I imagine would have been quite common place for young, single women living in Brooklyn in the 1950's. When I write this description here I think how boring it all sounds - but I did not find this book boring at all. Eilis has to make many choices over the course of the novel and it is these decisions and the ultimate choices that connect the reader to Eilis and her story - I wanted to know what she was going to do - and I also thought about the roads not taken - how the story could have been so different. The writing flowed beautifully - I really felt as though I was sitting down with a good friend listening to the story of their life. I will definitely be looking out for more of Toibin's work.