Brooklyn (and some random thoughts)
This story, in the hands of a lesser writer, would have been maudlin, boring and saccharine. But Mr. Toibin analyzes his heroine with almost clinical precision, yet without distancing himself (or his readers) from her. And, while the basic plotline is deceptively banal (young girl leaves home for America, suffers through mild home-sickness, finds love, then is forced by a domestic tragedy to return – thus putting her in a situation where she has to choose between the new life and the old), he manages to make it seem fresh and engaging.
We follow Eilis every step of the way and, to anyone who has, at some point, left a home, a lot of what she goes through is fully recognizable and relatable. A lot of the peaceful melancholy that seeps through The Master can also be found here – and it only enhances the emotional impact of the story. Eilis’s struggles with her job, her fellow tenants, her mother or her boyfriend(s) are all mundane but – much like everyone really – she makes them seem the center of the universe. In fact, they are the center of her universe. And even if it’s a 3rd person narration, we meet everyone through Eilis’s inexperienced and naive eyes, and we get to witness firsthand how she gains, inch by inch, more courage and worldly savvy.
My only negative observation would be that Tony and Jim – the two men in her life – are slightly lacking a definite personality. Tony, with whom we spend a bigger chunk of the novel, is better sketched, but Jim…Jim seems more of a distraction than anything else, an afterthought. But even this teeny-tiny complaint didn’t bother me while I was reading; it only struck me just now in fact. And, come to think of it, their lack of spark might also be a reflection of Eilis’s own docile, meek personality.
In the end, Mr. Toibin upholds his reputation as a master of emotions – his forays into Eilis’s inner world are so spot on that you can’t help but be baffled by the apparent ease with which he commits to paper the most fleeting, immaterial wisp of a thought or sensation.
And now, for those random thoughts – which mostly involve TV shows. I should have made a separate post, but I didn’t (clearly) – I’m thinking it’s just another symptom of me slowly losing interest in this whole blogging thing. Today is the day when all my shows are back – and I think it says a lot about the season premieres that, on a night when I got to see House, How I met your mother, Castle and Weeds – I had the most fun watching the ridiculously crazy shit on Weeds (and I pretty much hated season 5) and I cringed though half of the much expected House episode. I can’t wait for next week’s (hopeful) return to normality; I definitely don’t want to see this mushy, snarkless House every week. I mean…when, in the great Huddy-centric episode, the best moments are with Wilson, 13 and Chase…you really have to wonder if this was handled all that well. And I’m kinda disappointed to say this, because ‘Now what’ was Doris Egan’s last episode on the show (she’s writing for Torchwood now – some US channel is doing season 4) and I liked her previous stuff.