On Being Homesick in Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn

Brooklyn Books

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.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Books, Personal, Reflections and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s