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A YOUNG IRISH IMMIGRANT CAUGHT BETWEEN TWO WORLDS!
on March 30, 2016
Colm Toibin is the winner of the Costa Book Award and Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Brooklyn.
The story is set in Ireland and Brooklyn in the 1950s after World War Two. Eilis Lacey lives in the town of Enniscorthy with her mother, a widow with a small pension and her dynamic and glamorous sister, Rose. Her three brothers, Jack, Pat and Martin left home for Birmingham in search of work. Rose works in the office of Davis's Mills and earns a very good salary. Her wages pay for most of their needs. She belongs to a golf club and surrounds herself with affluent people.
Eilis has taken bookkeeping classes and is good with numbers and details. The only job available was working in a grocery shop on Sundays for Miss Kelly, the owner. She is a mean spirited woman, who once gave Eilis a stale bread to take home to her mother. Rose feels that Eilis could do much better than that.
Rose hears that Father Flood is in Ireland to visit his family. He now lives in the U.S. and has his parish in Brooklyn. Rose played golf with Father Flood and she sets up an appointment. She speaks to him about Eilis and how difficult it is to get a job and to meet men. He tells Rose that Brooklyn has great opportunities for a young person and he will speak to one of his parishioners, an Italian merchant.
When Father Flood returns to Brooklyn, his Italian parishioner, who owns a department store, has an opening on the floor for a sales person. If she does well, there would be plenty of opportunity to advance. Father Flood tells Rose how to proceed. She phones a friend in the American Embassy and was sent the required documents. Rose arranges everything. Father Flood wrote a formal letter sponsoring Eilis and guaranteeing to take care of her accommodations as well as her general welfare. A letter arrives from Bartocci and Company in Brooklyn offering Eilis a permanent position in their main store. Her brothers agree to pay her passage to New York and Rose would give her money to live until she gets settled.
Eilis is sorry to have to leave her family, but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for her. On the ship, she shares a berth with Georgina. Eilis is sea sick the entire journey, but Georgina explains that she too experienced sea sickness, when the weather conditions are not good. Finally, she arrives and is met by Father Flood, who takes her to the boarding house where she will live. It is close to work and to the parish. The owner is Mrs. Kehoe and she is from Wexford town. There are five other boarders there. She soon begins work in the department store and begins to feel homesick. She makes a visit to Father Flood and tells him how she feels. He immediately enrols her in night classes in bookkeeping and accountancy, three times a week for two years. Upon completion and she passes her exams, she will be a licensed bookkeeper. She is also a member of the parish and goes to the Friday night dances with the other boarders.
It is there that she meets Tony, who comes from a large Italian family. He falls in love with her and she is slowly falling in love too. Father Flood meets him and speaks with him and finds him to be a nice chap. As her feelings for Tony grow stronger, she receives devastating news from Ireland, which now threatens her entire future.
Colm Toibin has written a most beautiful story that touched my heart. His writing is simple, elegant, pure and profound. I loved the characters he created like Eilis, a highly moral young lady, loyal and intelligent and Rose, a dynamic and beautiful human being, who loves and lives life to the fullest and at the same time, looking after her dear mother and beloved sister, Eilis.
I loved Brooklyn and highly recommend it.