Author: Colm Toibin
Genre: Literary fiction
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from the public library
First line: Eilis Lacey, sitting at the window of the upstairs living room in the house on Friary Street, noticed her sister walking briskly from work.
This is our final read-along discussion of Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn. You can see the first part of our discussion here, the second part here, and the third part here. If you haven’t read Brooklyn, keep in mind that there will be spoilers in this post and in the comments section.
Well, we’re finished. And I can’t say that the last quarter changed my mind about the book, thus the two-star rating. I finally nailed down why I disliked Eilis so much: she was a completely passive character. From the beginning, the decision to go to America, the decision to enter accounting school, even dating Tony – all of these things seemed to just happen to Eilis, and she just went along.
That opinion of her was reinforced by the last quarter of the book, by the way she behaved when back in Ireland to visit her mother. Actually, even before she left for Ireland, when she gave in to Tony’s pressure for a quickie wedding. Then she gets to Ireland and falls into a relationship with Jim Farrell, not telling her mother or anyone about her marriage. She puts off deciding when to go home or what to do until she is forced to make a decision when Miss Kelly confronts her with the fact that she knows Eilis is married.
From beginning to end of the book, not one of Eilis’s actions seemed as if it came from her, from her wants, her needs, her desires, her ambition. I understand that an essential part of her character was that of an obedient daughter, but it is almost impossible for me to feel any sympathy or connection to a character like that.
When you combine the fact that I didn’t like the main character with the fact that I didn’t like Toibin’s sparse writing style, hopefully you can understand why I didn’t care much for this book. I hope those of you who joined me for the read-along liked it more than I did!
For those of you who are interested, you can listen to Toibin discuss Brooklyn for the BBC News at this link.