28 January 2011


“It’s always better to be honest,” (Eilis) said, imitating Rose when Rose found her dignity or sense of propriety challenged in any way. “I mean with everybody,” she added.
“When you’ve gone through the world like I have,” Mrs. Kehoe replied, “you’ll find that that only works some of the time.”
From Brooklyn, Colm Tóibín’s 2009 novel about a reluctant Irish immigrant, Eilis Lacey, who in the early 1950s crosses the ocean and makes a new life in America.
  • I read a review on Amazon that remarked how a number of novelists sometimes fail to take control of the story that they are writing, while Tóibín has perhaps too much control. Not that the remark was a complaint; but I still wouldn’t say “too much”. If he had given the fictional version of Henry James a shag in The Master, the novel wouldn’t be what it is. Certainly it would lose some of its power.
  • Same with Brooklyn. After reading a lot about the Irish author, I came to expect the “swaggering” lesbian scene that Mr. Tóibín had promised would be included in his next novel, which is, as we now know it, Brooklyn. Well, I’m glad it wasn’t that swaggering, because the restraint present in the swimsuit dressing scene with Eilis and Miss Fortini turned out to be as beautiful as the rest of the novel, which I loved and, at the same time, found terrifying, especially if I had to picture myself as moving elsewhere, too.

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