If you want to know what Irish immigration was in the fifties and how hard it was to start a new life , this marvelous novel puts you back into that era of personal courage and solidarity between the home country and the new world.No one knows this hardship today when mass immigration bound to human rights and social subsidies hits Europe and America alike in a storm every day,and immigrants are no longer grateful to their new homeland . Toibin , a great Irish author has notably written another wonderful book on Henry James called " The Master",which retraces the youth of Henry amongst his New England family who lost most cruelly 2 sons during the civil war , one of whom came home to die . It is a heart breaking , sober and severe showing just how much young Henry , not a soldier but an artist, was the odd man out ,not respected in that very American patriotic family dominated by the towering philosopher- Father . Obviously he had to emigrate to England and even become an English citizen in order to exist and be recognized as a writer.
Likewise, the heroine of" Brooklyn", Eilis, a rural Irish girl promised to unemployment or an hypothetical marriage has to emigrate to America ,which to her is the Irish community of Brooklyn, in order to survive economically ; Ireland then is dirt poor. Her up-rooting is a pilgrimage, tough and harrowing ; working conditions as a clothing Store clerk are un-heard of today ,the Irish community is tightly controlled by the priest and the parish, but she succeeds in getting a a good job and a boy friend who will marry her . Her intended is not only an Italian but a plumber to boot , i.e. a notch under a shop clerk in the social scale, and that is so difficult to admit that she will never tell her mother back in Ireland . Her lot is a booming Irish group tightly knit, loving its new country ,capable ,successful and ambitious but the loneliness of the new immigrant is still harrowing and often defeating ,and she is often desperate . The work ethic was so much part of life and unquestioned that we in Europe, faced by so much unemployment amongst our own people as well as immigrantstoday ,read this novel almost as a document of a bygone era. Toibin tells of ordinary people totally un- heroic , patient, courageous and resilient who make a new life. It is an admirable battle .
Eilis has her own rough Odyssey , she will have to return for her mother's sake but will succeed in fighting off the forces keeping her back in Ireland,and stubbornly re- cross the ocean back to Brooklyn .Nothing was easy and the success story was hard won, and we can see Brooklyn also as a paradise gained for those who chose it.