Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!
Anne shared some genealogical stories from Britain:
- Her 7th great-grandfather was a Huegenot refugee who served in the English army in the late 1600s and early 1700s.
- L is for Lewes Priory tells the story of the internment of Richard, 3rd Earl of Arundel, and his wife Eleanor. They are Anne’s 18th great-grandparents.
- Anne’s 3rd great-grandmother emigrated from Scotland to Australia via Liverpool, but not without incident. M is for Merseyside tells the story of cholera spreading among the ship’s passengers.
Tina reviewed Aesop’s Animals: The Science behind the Fables by Jo Wimpenny, a book about animal behavior by a British zoologist.
Book: Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication date: 2009
Source: ebook borrowed from the library
Summary: Nineteen-year-old Eilis Lacey hasn’t made a lot of plans for her life. She takes classes in bookkeeping while living with her mother. But she and her family are well aware that the job prospects in their village of Enniscorthy, Ireland are very low. Marriage is a possibility for a young woman and that seems to be the path that Eilis’ best friend Nancy is walking. Enniscorthy provides slim pickings on that front, too. Any man that Eilis might want seems out of reach in the very classed society of small-town Ireland. When the opportunity arises to emigrate to Brooklyn, Eilis sees no other option but to accept.
Thoughts: It’s rare that I read a book when there’s a movie available (too many books, too little time). It’s even rarer that I read a book when I’ve already seen the movie. I was curious about how a novelist makes a story interesting when the premise is pretty simple — a coming-of-age story about a woman who emigrates from Ireland to Brooklyn.
I think one of the answers to my question is that many of us are endlessly fascinated by the story of immigration. That’s one of the reasons that I think The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson is such a brilliant book, recognizing the internal migration of black people from the south to the north as an immigrant experience.
I’m not sure that I have other good answers, yet. Partly because I plowed through the book, intrigued by the story, and forgot to attempt to analyze it while I was going along. Clearly the book works when I can’t stop reading it — even when the point is to study it and when I already know the basic plot from watching the movie.
I’ll take a little more time to look at it. These are the things that I’m looking for:
- How does the author so effectively get the reader into the head of the main character, Eilis?
- What is it about Eilis’ thoughts and feelings that make us want to stay with her through the book?
- How does the language used by the author impact the reader? Is it particularly beautiful or poetic? Is it particularly clear, disappearing in favor of letting the character and plot stand out?
- Why are the settings so visually implanted in my brain?
Appeal: As I said, if you have a recurring fascination with the immigration experience, this book will work for you. The 1950s setting, including fashion, was another interest for me. This book isn’t a romance, but there’s romance in it. It’s a quiet read, so if you’re looking for a more calming story, this is a good one to try. A large part of this book is set in Ireland, which is why it works for British Isles Friday — it’s worth reading if either 1950s Brooklyn or small-town Ireland appeals to you as a setting.
Challenges: Brooklyn is my second book for the Historical Fiction Challenge
Have you read this book? What did you think?