Monday, June 1, 2009

Brooklyn - Colm Tóibín

Tomorrow Tuesday 2 June the Triskel Arts Centre, Tobin St, Cork presents an evening with Colm Tóibín. He will read from his new novel, Brooklyn. Time: 8.00pm Admission: €8/€6 T: 021 427 2022 E:

I have just finished Brooklyn and have to register my disappointment. I found it lifeless and ponderous and at no stage was I moved to any great interest or sympathy for the characters. It did improve in the second half with the telephone conversation between the main character, Eilis, and her mother a high point. I feel that if you are going to write about the fifties in Ireland than you had better do it in a way that makes your novel stand out from the thousands of similar stories with the same general theme and plot.

The beginning, middle and end of this story are where you would expect them and there is no relief from the one-thing-after-another storytelling style. At no stage did I feel that I was close to the main character as you might be in a John Banville novel. The style, which includes long involved sentences, keeps the reader at a distance from the characters. Some of the plot devices seem contrived especially the ending where Miss Kelly is used to spur Eilis to her final decision, a decision which up to then seemed highly unlikely.

There are nice things in the book. There is the unsettling feeling that everyone knows more than they let on to Eilis. There are also interesting comparisons between Enniscorthy and Brooklyn as regards class and status.

It strikes me that if Eilis' mother lived another decade or two she would have had a great time being flown over to Brooklyn for her grandchildren's baptisms, confirmations and weddings. Eilis herself would have prospered in the USA and her and her children would have returned on holiday many times to Wexford. Emigration, while it may have traumatic, was for many a very positive move.

The reviews of the book are generally very good, review in the Independent, "accomplished and at times enigmatic", here, Telegraph, "quietly magnificent" here, London Times, "beautifully executed ", here. Irish Independent, here. In the Irish Times John Waters writes on the book, Tóibín and much more here - Novel that could touch soul of the nation.

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