It is Ireland in the early 1950s and for Eilis Lacey, as for so many young Irish girls, opportunities are scarce. So when her sister arranges for her to emigrate to New York, Eilis knows she must go, leaving behind her family and her home for the first time.
Arriving in a crowded lodging house in Brooklyn, Eilis can only be reminded of what she has sacrificed. She is far from home - and homesick. And just as she takes tentative steps towards friendship, and perhaps something more, Eilis receives news which sends her back to Ireland. There she will be confronted by a terrible dilemma - a devastating choice between duty and one great love.
©2014 Colm Tóibín (P)2014 Penguin Books Limited
Beautifully narrated. I found it hard to stop listening to it. Transported to an earlier time when life was lived at a slower pace, even in New York. But the problems of relationships remain the same whatever the era. I came to this novel via Norah Webster, his latest, and was interested to find mention of her in this. Would love a further instalment of this very Irish community.
Loved this book, a great story, a romance with grit. The book is brought to life by the mellifluous Irish lilt of the narrator.
Another Colm Toibin classic.
Listen, relax and enjoy. A gently paced tale of first love, homesickness and growing up.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Narration was spot on and I loved the characters. The disappointment was the premature ending. So sudden.
This is the second book I have read by Colm Toibin having previously read and loved Nora Webster.
The narrative by Niamh Cusack was wonderful enhancing the experience.
This one was recommended by a friend and with the film coming out I wanted to read the book first.
The language used is quite sparse yet emotional and evocative. Tobin describes the surroundings wonderfully, discussing past lives with its relevance to the present. He describes the dynamics of family life from an emotional and personal perspective.
This book was set in the 1950’s. Eilis Lacey is the youngest in her family working in a local shop without prospects of advancement in a small Irish community. I loved hearing of Mrs Kelly and how she decided who to favour with her tomatoes and other goods. Her father is deceased. Ellis has brothers who emigrated to the UK. She lives with her mother and older sister Rose who is confident and outgoing. They seem to be managing financially but money was tight enough.
Eilis’ family decide she should go to the USA and Eilis goes along with it. She is sponsored by a local priest Fr Flood. Her time in Liverpool with her brother shows how the Irish were treated there at that time and how being shouted at for being Irish in the street was accepted.
Once in America Ellis works in a department store in Brooklyn, while living in a boarding house with other Irish emigrants who have surprisingly old fashioned outlooks on the world. This is shown parallel with Eilis experiencing different races, colours, and cultures. The weather is also vastly different and Eilis tries to acclimatise herself to this
This is a totally different world from Ireland with the heating kept on all night. In Ireland at the time many people had no heating and it would have been used sparingly by most if they had. I really ‘felt’ for Eilis with her homesickness. I have personal experience of this and really felt it was true to reality.
Ellis thrives in her work setting and as well as starting a relationship with Tony an Italian American.
Ellis seems to be somewhat lacking in initiative to decide her own destiny as it was her family’s decision that she should go to America and it is Fr Flood’s decision to enrol her in evening classes. He sets it all up including the funding so all she has to do is turn up. However once a path has been decided Eilis applies herself and works to her best capacity to move forward.
She passes her exams with good grades. Gradually this sense of freedom and realisation of her personal abilities begins to change Eilis into a confident woman.
Social issues of the time are presented to the reader for example the violence and rivalry between the Irish and Italian areas in New York, African Americans evolving in white society, lesbianism and the treatment of the Jewish community in Europe during the Second World War
The novel moves at an easy steady pace. The structure and language of the novel allows the reader to sit with Eilis in her world thinking their own thoughts accordingly. This novel is uncomplicated but is wonderful in that way. The characters appear realistic and real, the emotions are heartfelt.
Then tragic events necessitate Eilis’ return to Ireland which is now somewhat alien to her. While family and friends are aware of the change in her Eilis sees her new found confidence being eroded. Ellis again is unsure of her place in the world or her destiny. The importance of family and their bond is portrayed through small things like the writing of letters and the togetherness of sorting through clothing together. Tobin portrays Eilis as a ‘real’ person. She works well but obviously as her life choices have been made by others up to now she finds it difficult to decide her future and does tend to let things drift and take the easy option. This is annoying and frustrating at times especially at the end of the book. Ellis is ultimately quite a selfish person considering herself before others. Ultimately Ellis’ fate is decided by events outside her control. The lead up to this decision is subtle and as such surprised and held my interest. The end comment by Eilis is very telling and insightful and is ultimately true. This book has won awards and is now a film. I think it deserves it all and it stays with me even after the final page is read.
I would highly recommend it.
Eclectic taste in audiobooks, with a particular thirst to discover Classics I'd never get around to reading in physical book format!
Niamh Cusack reads it beautifully, and I love Colm Toibin's gentle, understated writing. The perspective draws you in and provokes much discussion and consideration.
Elis' outward journey to New York from Liverpool, and eating in an empty restaurant because all the other passengers knew about the rough seas, while she became horrifically seasick (all the more for the food she'd consumed). What a nightmare journey in third class, hard to imagine how anybody coped in those conditions - and how crafty were those who'd made the journey before.
I loved her performance of the lady who runs the shop Elis worked in for a while - brilliantly captured haughty busybody. All the characters were brought to life in entertaining and riveting fashion.
It was easy to get caught up in Elis' story, her loneliness, fears and her foreboding - the restrictions placed on her owing to her gender and upbringing: she never quite seems to feel settled or at ease, and you sense she will live her whole life that way.
Yes. I loved the story and it was beautifully read. The combination made it a great accompaniment to my daily commute.
I liked the fact that there was some historical relevance and an insight into what young people in Ireland had to do to find work.
No, but I will certainly look out for more.
There were a couple of times that I did exclaim out loud!
Definitely recommend A lovely portrayal of life in the time
The slow maturity of the central character
A perfect story -excellent escapism
"An enticing love story with a disappointing end"
I loved this audio book from beginning to..well the penultimate chapter. This is more in relation to the story itself and not at all about the performance of the speaker whom I have found superb!! I would recommend it simply for that already!
Sadly the storyline seems to drift - it's an unsatisfactory ending leaving us "hanging" - Alish was portrayed as the good girl and turned out to be not so nice and less principled after all - which is not only disappointing but also rather puzzling as I had thought that her character development had already reached its peak - but maybe I just believe that every good book should have an even better ending. And that was not the case here.
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