This week I’ve been reading… Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

So do you remember back all those years ago (ok, it was a couple of months ago) when I used to do a weekly review of the books I had read? And then Philippa Gregory happened and I just didn’t have that much to say? Well this week I finally put Philippa aside (unfinished unfortunately but we won’t talk about that now) and picked up something different entirely. So My Week in Books is back. And with a new name because why the hell not.

In a nutshell: 1950s, young woman moves to Brooklyn, nothing much happens

How long: Two days give or take

Where I finished it: Sat in the parked car avoiding a party

Favourite quote: They knew so much, each one of them, she thought, that they could do everything except say out loud what it was they were thinking

Would I read it again: It’s only short – why not?

Well I don’t know if it was purely the relief of finally reading something that wasn’t set during the Wars of the Roses but I just devoured this book. Colm Toibin is my new Ian McEwan. Although I think I’ve already claimed Tessa Hadley is my new Ian McEwan so Colm Toibin will have to be my new Tessa Hadley. But whoever he is I love him.

Brooklyn is the story of Eilis Lacey who is sent from her tiny town in Ireland to Brooklyn (well duh) on her own in the 1950s. Nothing particularly interesting or out of the ordinary or noteworthy happens to her but I was hooked. The character of Eilis was incredibly well written, she felt completely real to me – if she’d walked in the door I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. I can’t think of any other examples of male authors who write quite such convincing female protagonists. She was gentle and sweet – a 1950s Fanny Price or Nella Oortman.

Ok before I get too carried away I did have a couple of issues with the book – teeny things really. The incident with Miss Fontini I did not understand. Well I understood what was going on but I didn’t understand why it happened or what it’s purpose was. I also found Colm Toibin’s style of writing took some getting used to. He wrote in a completely detached way – where a different author might have said ‘the light was too weak to read by,’ Colm Toibin said ‘she saw that the light was too weak to read by.’ To begin with this really annoyed me, it felt like how a child would write, but by the end I was finding it made it easier to read. Almost like you were less invested in the book but could just float through the plot line.

So overall, would I recommend this? Absolutely. If I hadn’t already done my six books you should be reading on the beach this summer then Brooklyn would have been going straight to the top of my list. And personally I just can’t wait to get my hands on his other novels.


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