Eilis Lacey is living in a small town in Ireland in the 1950s. She lives with her mother and her sister Rose, who basically keeps the family going on her income. Eilis is unable to find work even though she has been studying bookkeeping. When a priest from America visits the town, Rose arranges it so that the priest offers her a job in Brooklyn. Father Flood arranges all the paperwork and a place for Eilis to stay, so she sets off for a new life in America. Initially she is quite homesick, but Father Flood signs her up for some bookkeeping courses and she immerses herself in her job and her work. Soon Eilis has made a happy life for herself, which becomes even happier when she meets, and falls in love with, Tony.
But then disaster strikes back home and Eilis has to travel back to Ireland to be with her family. It is easy for her to fall into the same rhythm of life as before she left and soon her life in America seems like a dream to her. She knows she has to make a choice: her duty to her family in Ireland or her own life and happiness in America.
I had read a lot of really good reviews of this book, so I had high expectations. That is never a good thing for when you are reading a book, but there it was. I did really enjoy reading this book. It was actually quite innocent and sweet and it was a nice look at Ireland in 1950. I liked the character of Eilis and she grew and developed quite nicely. I found the secondary characters a bit flat; no matter how much “screen time” they got, they still felt a little one-dimensional to me.
The end definitely surprised me, so that is a point in the book’s favour. It was the end I had hoped and rooted for, but I did not expect it to happen. It seemed like Colm Toibin was steering into a different direction, so it was nice to be surprised like that. There were some decisions that Eilis made that I thought were a bit hare-brained, but then on further reflection, I guess it was “in character” for her to react the way she did to certain circumstances.
I guess there is not much negative that I can say about the book, because I quite liked it. I can’t say I was ravingly enthusiastic about it either – I guess you can tell. But if you want a light, nice, non-taxing read, then I can definitely recommend this.