'Brooklyn changes every day,' Miss Bartocci said as Father Flood nodded. 'New people arrive and they could be Jewish or Irish or Polish or even coloured. Our old customers are moving out to Long Island and we can't follow them, so we need new customers every week. We treat everyone the same.
I've been meaning to read something from Colm Tóibín for a while now. I wanted to get a hold of his two earlier novels, The Blackwater Lightship and The Master, both of which were short-listed for the Booker Prize. I've noticed that Booker Prize nominees and award-winners are often books that I also enjoy to read - as compared to e.g. Nobel Prize winners, which often seem a little out of my league... ;)
However, the first Tóibín book that I got my hands on was Brooklyn, his newest novel, published in 2009. The novel also won the Costa Novel Award in the same year. And it certainly didn't lower my expectations for any other Tóibín novels that I might read in the future.
There must be a zillion novels and stories written about immigrants coming into America and trying to make a living in a new environment. Brooklyn continues this tradition with the story of Eilis Lacey, who lives in Enniscorthy, Ireland in the 1950s. Work for young girls like her is scarce and when an opportunity comes up to emigrate to New York, Eilis leaves her home and family to make the long voyage across the Atlantic.
"Making it" in America is all but easy for Eilis and other young immigrants like her, but somehow in the midst of homesickness, alienation and insecurity, she manages to find a job, take evening classes, go to dances and even fall in love. Her life and thoughts are described in detail and she is easy to relate to. I think that the back cover of the novel gives away too much and I won't say anything more about the plot here. But my first experience of Tóibín certainly wasn't a disappointment; I'd recommend this book any day.
Colm Tóibín: Brooklyn. Penguin Books. 2009. 252 pages.
ContemporaryWriters.com: Colm Tóibín
Los Angeles Times: Brooklyn
Guardian: "Colm Tóibín wins Costa prize"
Wikipedia: Colm Tóibín