NOTE: I’ve decided to change up how I write reviews. I noticed that I was writing the sort of review that I would like to read…I only read reviews AFTER I’ve read the book, just to see what other people think. I know most people read reviews to see whether or not they like the book and then they will read it. So I’m going to add a bit more about the book and less criticism and I hope you all enjoy what I’ve changed!
The premise of this story is about Irish immigration to America and how that was viewed and how it happened in the years following WWII. I don’t think it explicitly tells what year it takes place, but maybe ’49 or ’50 would be my guess. We’re introduced to Eilis Lacey, who is a young woman in a small town in Ireland. We learn immediately that she is intelligent and a whiz with numbers. She had ambitions to become a bookkeeper. With the nudging of her older sister, Rose, and the help of a priest in Brooklyn, Eilis gets a job and a room in a house in Brooklyn and suddenly finds herself in America. Once there, she has to deal with a new job, her house full of Irish women, and, naturally, a love interest is introduced, an Italian boy named Tony. You continue to follow Eilis through her life as she goes through a thoroughly life-changing experience due to her transition to America.
If we’re being honest, I’ve been wanting to read this book ever since I knew it was going to be a movie! I wanted to read it before I saw the movie. I knew the gist of what it was about: “Irish girl goes to America and struggles a little” but that was about it. I was wanting to read a historical fiction novel for about a week and picked this one up. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it took a little while to get into the writing style. The sentences were often long and had many commas you had to keep track of. After a while I easily followed it, but it took a while to get into.
I enjoyed Eilis as a character, though she felt almost transparent in the book. She didn’t often make her own choices and often just let life pull her along on the jet current…I guess that seems pretty realistic due to her upbringing and the time period, but, if I’m being honest, I was thoroughly bored with this book until Tony, the love interest, was introduced. The book was very monotonous, going through very intense details about the simplest of things, day in and day out for Eilis. I should have expected it, but it still threw me off a little. The story definitely picked up once Tony was introduced. There was excitement that cut through the monotony of life and I was entertained until the last page from there.
I’m not sure if Eilis does much character growth besides becoming a bit more “American”–aka confident in herself physically and mentally and holding herself a little more responsible for her decisions. She does a lot of overthinking in the story, which I could relate to and which you don’t read about often, so that was interesting to read about.
I think that Colm Tóibín is a highly detailed writer and obviously did a lot of research about what he was writing about, but the book definitely lagged a bit for me in the first half. Part of that may have been the lack of chapters, so I never felt like I could pause and catch my breath. However, I did enjoy reading this and I truly felt like I had been transported back in time while I was reading it, especially in the second half.
It is a short book that I highly recommend reading all in one sitting, or as close to one sitting as possible.