On April 20th, the Wallingford Public Library Thursday Night Book Club met to discuss our April book, Colm Toibin's Brooklyn. Set in the early 1950s, Brooklyn is the story of Eilis (pronounced AY-lish) Lacey, a young woman who immigrates to New York City from Enniscorthy, Ireland. In elegant, unadorned prose, the novel describes the struggles Eilis faces and the small, quiet ways she comes into her own.
We spent most of the meeting talking about Eilis herself, about her sheltered life in Ireland and about how each of us felt about her experiences in Brooklyn, both the choices she made, and the ones that were made for her. Many people were struck by how naive Eilis was when she first arrived, and we talked a fair bit about the subtle ways Toibin shows us Eilis' slow and steady growth. Several of the book club participants have parents or grandparents who immigrated to New York from Ireland or from Italy, where Eilis' boyfriend Tony and his family are from, and they shared stories from their past that underscored the realistic nature of Toibin's novel.
We also spent a lot of time talking about the end of the novel, and about the ways each of us felt about Eilis' behavior when she returns home for a visit after a family tragedy. Here is where things got particularly interesting, as people had quite disparate reactions to the things Eilis did and to the decisions she made (or were forced to make). As has come to be the norm with the group, people shared their observations and reactions with candor and often with great humor. While there was consensus that Eilis made the right decision in the end, the way she handled it made for a wonderful debate in the group. The hour flew by.
Join us at 7 pm on May 18th when we will be discussing Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg. Copies of the book are available at the Information Desk.