Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

The protagonist in Brooklyn is a young Irish woman called Eilis, who leaves Ireland to go to America for work. The reader follows Eilis as she takes her first uncertain steps into her newly established life and begins to embrace independence. Eilis' settled lifestyle is shattered on the death of a family member, and Eilis learn much about herself in her return to Ireland.

Brooklyn is a beautiful novel, masterfully written and both subtle and emotionally complex. Though Eilis is measured, thoughtful and a meticulous observer, she's also vulnerable, unsure and homesick and her emotional state is written so suggestively and implicitly as to allow the reader ample room to inhabit and explore the character.

Brooklyn offers the reader all the complexity of the notion of coming of age and fulfilling expectations, whilst providing a gentle narrative that drives the story. The masterstroke is dealt in Eilis suddenly becoming bereaved just as she is beginning to come to terms with America as home. Eilis' reaction to her bereavement is subtle, neither overplayed nor overstated and yet clearly shaking the very foundations of her life. Her devastation is played out through uncharacteristic behaviour and a seeming powerlessness after such a willful accommodation of a new home and the building of a new life.

A highly emotive and incredibly touching novel that is easy to get inside, though wrapped up in such a way that it's hard to stay inside. Wonderful.

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