Author(s): Colm Toibin
It is Enniscorthy in the southeast of Ireland in the early 1950s. Eilis Lacey is one among many of her generation who cannot find work at home. Thus when a job is offered in America, it is clear to everyone that she must go. Leaving her family and country, Eilis heads for unfamiliar Brooklyn, and to a crowded boarding house where the landlady's intense scrutiny and the small jealousies of her fellow residents only deepen her isolation.
Slowly, however, the pain of parting is buried beneath the rhythms of her new life -- until she begins to realize that she has found a sort of happiness. As she falls in love, news comes from home that forces her back to Enniscorthy, not to the constrictions of her old life, but to new possibilities which conflict deeply with the life she has left behind in Brooklyn.
In the quiet character of Eilis Lacey, Colm Tóibín has created one of fiction's most memorable heroines and in Brooklyn, a luminous novel of devastating power. Tóibín demonstrates once again his astonishing range and that he is a true master of nuanced prose, emotional depth, and narrative virtuosity.
~ Brooklyn is a controlled, understated novel, completely without pretence or contrivance. What it does have is authentic detail and a kind of quiet intensity. The story opens in a rural village in south east Ireland, sometime in the early Fifties. Eilis (19) is content enough but there are few employment prospects. A visiting priest from New York arranges a job opportunity and undertakes to look after her. The author captures the wide eyed wonders of travel and just what it feels like to be a stranger in a strange land. Although an otherwise ordinary story, it is precisely because of this that the author is able to examine wider themes such as immigration, institutional racism and shifting social attitudes. Most of all, the cultural contrast here provides perspective for the reader. American openness and Irish respectability ultimately determine the outcome. A thoughtful book, there cannot be many writers of English prose who can outdo Toibin for clarity, simplicity and elegance. Mike
Colm Toibin was born in Enniscorthy in 1955. He is the author of seven other novels including BlackwaterLightship, The Master and The Testament of Mary, all three of which were nominated for the Booker Prize, with The Master also winning the IMPAC Award, and Brooklyn, which won the Costa Novel Award. He has also published two collections of stories and many works of non-fiction. He lives in Dublin.