Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

I am kind of voluntarily keep away from Irish writers since I finish reading Dubliners by James Joyce. The experience of reading Dubliners, I have to admit, was not fun. I was very struggle trying to understand the Irish vocabulary, which is quite different from English or Australian. But I came into understanding that not every Irish writer is sophisticate like Joyce and I may taste some other stories and eventually able to appreciate Joyce.

Toibin is on my list because I found it not hard to read. I love his mastery on language–it is smooth, peaceful and beautiful. It create a sensation that you are on the sea and rock with gentle wave or you can sitting at the corner of the busy road and see people coming and going, each with their own history and story. One can learn how to compose a story and present it from everyday life from his stories.

But the story of Brooklyn is merely OK. I like the first half but lost focus on the last half. I wished Toibin can make it more crispy and interesting–cut off couple of minor characters like the lodgers, would be better.

The main focus of the story is Eilis,her physiological activities before and after she left Ireland and the change she experienced in reality. Toibin has done a great job on building personality of Eilis, she is smart, very sensitive, innocent but subconsciously expecting more from life. Eilis just like my old self dated back to my days as oversea student. The feeling of outsider, the longing to become one of them (the local people), the insufferable loneliness, attraction of love and sex, scare of being undermined/ misused, are what we would experience when we live in a new country. The worse is, you have to rely on yourself and you can’t even tell everything to your family-they can’t help you and they might not understand it. The loneliness, would grow, like a monster, sometime you would do something stupid to just get rid of it. 

The dilemma of whether to stay with Jim or go back to Brooklyn to be with Tony, is just the inevitable consequence of Loneliness. Tony is a local, a good man, the first guy she falls in love. She has no other available options and she thought it is not bad to marry Tony though she secretly unsure if she care him enough. When she was back to Ireland because of the sudden death of her sister, she fell in love with Jim and painfully realized she was trapped in a very bad situation. 

Who is to blamed? Fate or Eilis herself?

She scarcely said no for her entire life. She accepted the fate of leaving Ireland, gladly accepted help from Father Flood, didn’t complain when the landlady put her in the basement, and she didn’t say no to Tony when she was not sure. Is it a tendency for us to grasp a straw when we are drowning in loneliness? That is why it is so sad–there is no one to blame! We are poor creature constantly feeling unsecured and unsafe, bearing the longing to love and be loved. What’s been done can not be undone. So Eilis has to go back to Brooklyn with regret. Sad.

 

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