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Brooklyn Book and Movie Review by Lee Valley

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Brooklyn is the 2015 historical period drama telling the tale of a young Irish emigrant. The film is a screen adaptation of Colm Toibín’s book ‘Brooklyn’ by Nick Hornby. It represents the heartbreak of the Irish family and that of the emigrant.

Eilis and her family

Eilis Lacey can only secure a part-time job in Enniscorthy, County Wexford. She works Sundays and odd days in Mrs Kelly’s shop. Mrs Kelly is a mean-spirited snob with double standards. Her older sister Rose organises for Eilis to emigrate to Brooklyn, New York, with assistance from Father Flood the priest based in Brooklyn. Rose wants a better life and opportunities for Eilis. Their widowed mother lets her go, after all Rose is still at home with her. Their brothers are all working in England.

The move to Brooklyn

After a rough sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, Eilis moves into Mrs Keogh’s boarding house and starts work in a department store. Father Flood had all of these details organised prior to Eilis’ arrival in Brooklyn. She suffers homesickness which isn’t helped by her housemate’s antics. The girls living in Mrs Keoghs boarding house are a mixed bunch and Eilis is not comfortable with any of them. Mrs Keogh takes her under her wing.

Settling in

Father Flood supports Eilis and tries to help her settle in Brooklyn. He organises for her to attend night classes to further her education. He encourages Eilis to take part in church activities such as serving Christmas dinner to the destitute Irish emigrants and dances on Friday nights. At one of these dances, Eilis meets Italian plumber, Tony. They fall in love, Tony more quickly than Eilis. Eilis is more cautious with her affections. She keeps her focus on getting qualified as a bookkeeper. She wants the qualification for herself and secretly, to prove she is well able for the job, and as good as her revered older sister Rose.

Eilis was getting settled into her new life in Brooklyn, even enjoying herself. She had her boyfriend Tony, friends at work, her night classes and a safe place to live. She regularly wrote letters home, telling her mother and sister about things that happened at work or in the boarding house. She wrote separate, private letters to Rose and posted them to her at work. She only told Rose about having a boyfriend.

Devastation

Her new life imploded with the devastating news that her beloved Rose has passed away. What should she do – stay in Brooklyn or return to Ireland? She was going to miss the funeral in any case. Eilis is heartbroken at the loss of her sister and is torn. She decided to go home for a month.

Tony is devastated. He fears Eilis will not return to Brooklyn once she goes home to Enniscorthy. He proposes to her. He convinces her to secretly wed before she travels to Ireland. At city hall for their marriage, they met people from Wexford.

Enniscorthy Castle, Ireland
Return to Enniscorthy

Her return to Enniscorthy is treated as expected by her mother and the town. They conspire to provide her with a job in the mills, where Rose had worked, and a conveniently single and eligible local man, Jim Farrell. Eilis struggles with the expectations from everyone in Enniscorthy. She is uncomfortable because she knows she is being accepted now where she wasn’t before her emigration to Brooklyn. This adds to the weight of expectations for her to fill her sisters’ shoes.

Choices

Eilis has to decide between Jim Farrell, the local businessman in Enniscorthy and Tony her secret husband in Brooklyn. The bittersweet reminder that she left Ireland because she had no options resonates with Eilis. Though there is more to consider than love and affection, Eilis feels the pressure from the community for her to stay in Enniscorthy. Her decision is taken from her hands by the evil spirited Mrs Kelly and her contacts in Brooklyn. They were the people Eilis and Tony had met at city hall. Eilis returns to Brooklyn.

Why not dress and look like some of the characters in this book/movie. visit our traditional Irish clothing website for some authentic apparel.

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