You can’t swing a dick without reading heaped praise for Colm Tóibín’s novel Brooklyn and the film adaptation, so I settled in for a tale of immigration, alienation and love in 1950’s America …
Beginning in 1950’s Ireland, the novel follows the blah and spineless Eilis through her voyage to the United States (her mother and glamorous older sister decided she must go to America, so, eh she does…), where she is handed a job, enrolled in evening classes, set up with lodging at a boarding house, meets and is courted by an Italian American man, etc.
Sweet, huh? Does she appreciate or make the most of these amazing opportunities? Nope.
A passenger in her own life, Eilis doesn’t really make any decisions on her own until the end of the novel, and even that was basically for lack of viable alternatives.
I could not get passed the desire to shake Eilis to wake her up, she was so one-dimensional and passive throughout the whole story.
We are teased with potentially tantalizing characters and plot threads:
- A priest manages to secure her a passage, work status and job but how? And, more importantly… why?!
- A brilliant professor who is possibly a Holocaust survivor
- Her unpleasant landlady and her bitchy former boss
- An Italian boyfriend who looks suspiciously unlike the rest of his family
Sadly, these aren’t fleshed out into anything that would risk doing more than pique your interest… and then disappoint.
The “twist” arrives at the end of the novel when Eilis realizes she has a huge choice to make: a proper “head or heart” dilemma which could see her return permanently to her parish in Ireland OR committing to a lifetime in America… sadly, it all comes too late for me to give a shite about a character I longed to throttle for 270-odd pages.
Don’t believe the hype, lads. I’ve been told that it works better as a film, but I won’t be beating a path to the cinema to see this.