Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War Two. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America — to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood “just like Ireland” — she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind.
Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, who loves the Dodgers and his big Italian family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love with Tony, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.
I really wanted to love this book, but I think going into it with high hopes is what lead to my disappointment. Usually when I read a book, I am able to like some part of it, whether it be the characters, plot, or theme, but I found it hard to enjoy any aspect of this novel completely. I stopped myself multiple times while reading and asked myself which parts of the novel I was actually enjoying or if I was just reading it to get it done and over with (which is something I rarely feel when reading a book).
That being said, there were points in the novel where I thought I really admired Eilis as a character. Overall, she’s a very considerate and conscientious person, which made me like her, but I was worried that she would become too passive and essentially, a doormat. However, this was not the case and Eilis held her own and voiced her opinions, regardless if who she was talking to agreed with them or not. Another aspect of her personality that I liked was her intelligence and desire to further her education, which was quite uncommon for a young girl during this time period.
Another character I liked, and identified with, was Eilis’s sister, Rose. I’m an older sister myself, so that’s probably why I perceived Rose differently than most people probably did while reading this. Most readers would probably think Rose as an annoying older sister who attempts to micromanage her sister’s life, but I viewed her actions as means to ensure her little sister had a greater chance at a better life than what she would have in Ireland.
In addition to its characters, the novel’s plot was decent and held my interest for the most part. I’m a sucker for a good love story, so when the love interest was introduced, I was excited to see the new relationship bloom.
Needless to say, this book was nothing like I had expected it to be. I’m glad that I read it because I can now watch the film, but this isn’t a novel that I can see myself picking up again to reread. If you’re looking for a story with a good plot, then you’d probably enjoy this novel. Tóibín’s writing style contains a lot of telling with minimal dialogue, which is probably why I didn’t enjoy this novel as much as I was hoping. The dialogue that was included, however, didn’t really seem to propel the story forward, but now I’m criticizing more so from a writer’s perspective as opposed to a reader’s.
Leave a comment below if you’ve read this novel/plan to read this novel and tell me what you think! I would love to hear your opinions. I’ll be watching the film later tonight, so expect a film review within the next couple of days.
Thank you for reading!
Goodreads rating: 3.62/5
Dee’s rating: 3/5