She was nobody here. It was not just that she has no friends and family; It was rather that she was a ghost in this room, in the room, in the streets on the way to work on the shop floor. Nothing meant anything….the air. the light, the ground, it was all solid and part of her, even if she met no one familiar. Nothing here was part of her. It was false, empty, she thought. She closed her eyes and tried to think, as she had done so many times in her life, of something she was looking forward to, but there was nothing. Not the slightest thing. Not even Sunday. Nothing maybe except sleep…
Brooklyn is about Eilis Lacey’ comes from a small Irish town and was comfortable living with her older (spinster) sister, Rose and widowed mother while her brothers worked down south in England. With Father Flood’s help, Eilis moves to Brooklyn, New York to work at a department store and purse accounting qualifications. She struggles to find her place in a foreign, multicultural land while still trying to remain true to her Irish roots.
Apart from the running theme of homesickness, I admired the fact that was he able to write from a young woman’s perspective and he highlighted the social changes in America during the 1950s. One of my favourite parts apart from the above paragraph that capture the essence of this book, is contrast between working for Ms. Kelly’s grocery shop in Ireland and Ms. Bartocci’s department in America revealing the kind of people that you are likely to meet both home and away.
When I learned that Brooklyn was by an Irish author, I went thinking that it would have the Irish “voice” but I was pleasantly surprised that the language was pretty simple to read and follow. Since I watched the 2015 movie adaptation I already had mental images of what to expect. However, the screenplay doesn’t not stay completely loyal to the novel but I swooned over the cinematography and wardrobe.
From my own experience, no one REALLY prepares you for the loneliness you experience when you living abroad. Yes, I had spent the majority of my teenage years in boarding school and I was used to being away from my family. However, nothing prepared me for moving to a different continent.
When speaking of Australia, America, Europe most people emphasise on the choices and opportunities at your disposal. The clean streets. Reliable transport systems. The pleasures of online shopping and banking. and basically the good life. But they gloss over the difficulties that they face. The hole in your heart when you struggle to find something or anyone who mirrors home. Just like Eilis, I am glad that I was able to get over that hump by keeping myself busy ( well, there was school work and the library) . So I can appreciate Craving Yellow’s latest series 5 Countries in 7 Years
I would recommend this book to anyone thinking of living overseas and wonders what it feels like being far away from home. I purchased a used copy of Brooklyn at Bookstop at Yaya Centre, Nairobi but I would think that they would have brand new copies at the same store since I was pretty impressed by their stock. (No….I have not been paid to write this).
Please feel free to share your experiences and/or advice for anyone living abroad. Also, let me know your thoughts on the book and movie adaptation.