Tuesday, April 19, 2011

by Colm Toibin

Eilis is a young woman living with her mother and sister in Ireland in the 1950s. She moves to New York City to find work and struggles with homesickness. When she leaves her sheltered life in Ireland she’s sweet and young and has never had to truly care for herself. Her older sister Rose has always looked out for her, but once she’s in America she’s forced to grow up.

Yes it’s a coming-of-age tale and it’s an immigrant’s tale, but more than anything it’s Eilis’ tale. The writing is lovely and there are some scenes that I can’t get out of my head, like her tumultuous first ship crossing to America.

It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what makes Toibin’s story so memorable. It’s not filled with melodrama or terrifying twists, it’s just one simple story, but he writes it in such an accessible, lyrical way. He also manages to capture a difficult level of awkwardness in the scenes between Eilis and her mother that anyone who’s once been a teenager would recognize. There’s a palpable sense of indecision and frustration that feels true to life as you near the end. I was left wanting to read more from the talented author.

You’ve Gotta Read This and The Complete Booker both have reviews if you want to hear more.


Sandy Nawrot said...

I know what you mean. You can't point out the specific reasons why it is so readable, but it is. I love immigrant stories, probably because my husband was one. The ending made me want to beat someone though.

Bybee said...

I want to read this one and The Master as well.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - I'd read your comment about the ending before I read it, so I think I was prepared to be disappointed. It felt off to me too.

Bybee - I hadn't heard of The Master, that looks so good! Toibin writing about Henry James, it's going on my TBR.

B said...

I bought this over the weekend! I've been hearing great things about it and can't wait to read it.

Carrie K. said...

I'm hosting a read-along of this one later this year - sounds so good!

nomadreader said...

I really want to read this one. I haven't read any of Toibin's work, but I keep hearing how wonderful he is.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Carrie K - This would be a fun read-along book. It's a fast read.

nomadreader - I'll definitely be trying more of his work.