Author: Colm Tóibín
Publishing Date: March 2010
It is Enniscorthy in the southeast of Ireland in the early 1950s. Eilis Lacey is one among many of her generation who cannot find work at home. Thus when a job is offered in America, it is clear to everyone that she must go. Leaving her family and country, Eilis heads for unfamiliar Brooklyn, and to a crowded boarding house where the landlady’s intense scrutiny and the small jealousies of her fellow residents only deepen her isolation.
Slowly, however, the pain of parting is buried beneath the rhythms of her new life — until she begins to realize that she has found a sort of happiness. As she falls in love, news comes from home that forces her back to Enniscorthy, not to the constrictions of her old life, but to new possibilities which conflict deeply with the life she has left behind in Brooklyn.
In the quiet character of Eilis Lacey, Colm Tóibín has created one of fiction’s most memorable heroines and in Brooklyn, a luminous novel of devastating power. Tóibín demonstrates once again his astonishing range and that he is a true master of nuanced prose, emotional depth, and narrative virtuosity.
MY THOUGHTS (w/spoilers):
I may be in the minority by saying that I thought this book was just okay. I felt empathy for Eilis's struggle of having to travel alone to a new country with no friends or family to await her arrival. Specially since the trip took longer by boat and she was very seasick. She had to learn how to survive living in a new place and try to make new friends. While reading the book you can tell she was young and naive and she did show some spirit at times but overall she just went with the flow.
I think that's what bothered me about it and it probably says more about me than the character. Eilis didn't make her own decisions throughout the book (e.g., her sister got her the trip to America, Father Flood found her a place to live, a job and in school for bookkeeping). Her life seemed to be run by everyone else. She didn't seem to have any opinion of what she wanted or she didn't say it to anybody. She was very passive aggressive with her roommates and her landlord. She clearly didn't like them because they would say things she didn't like but she didn't say anything to stop them. The reason she married Tony wasn't because she loved him but because she couldn't say no. Tony clearly loved her and wanted to start a family but she couldn't tell him that she wants to work instead of a family.
Eilis did have moments of character but they were rare and far in between. For instance, when she assisted the black customers at the department store she worked. She knew her supervisor was not pleased but she did it anyway. Also she was nice to her roommate Dolores even though everyone else made fun of her for being a scrubber (she cleaned the house for rent). It was in these instances that I found myself cheering for Eilis. I wanted her to do something for herself. Unfortunately, she continued to follow what everyone else told her to do.
I feel like I wanted to like the book because everyone was talking about what a good book it was. The more I tried to force the issue the more annoyed I became with her.
What did you think of the book? Did you like Eilis's character? Did you understand her perspective? Do you think you could move to another country by yourself? Would you have made the same decisions she did?
Author: Emma Donoghue
Publisher: First Back Bay/Little, Brown & Company
Publ. Date: May 2011
To five-year-old Jack, Room is the world. It's where he was born, it's where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. At night, Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where Jack is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.
Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it's the prison where she has been held for seven years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in this eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But Jack's curiosity is building alongside Ma's own desperation--and she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer.
Room is a tale at once shocking, riveting, exhilarating--a story of unconquerable love in harrowing circumstances, and of the diamond-hard bond between a mother and her child.
MY THOUGHTS :
The story begins with Jack turning 5 years old. Jack eats, plays and watches only a little TV, his Ma says if you watch too much "it rots the brain", in a room. This is the only place Jack knows but to his mother there is a world outside the room she misses and where people miss her. For the past seven years Ma, as she is called by Jack, has been held captive by Old Nick but Jack doesn't realize it. The room is Jack's whole life and all he knows. He doesn't believe what he sees on TV is real. He thinks all the stories his mother tells him about the outside world are made up and just wants to stay where he is. As time passes by Ma is not only afraid for herself but for Jack too. She knows Jack is getting older and Old Nick will see him as a threat and may either take him away or harm him. She recognizes the fact that it's time for them to try to escape and she has to depend on Jack for help.
Room was a tough read for many reasons. First, it is written the way a 5 year old child speaks and thinks since it's written through Jack's point-of-view. It wasn't that he didn't know how to speak but his vocabulary is clearly very hindered due to his limited interaction with people other than his mother or watching television. Second, even though Jack's mother tried to instill some semblance of normal to what a normal boy his age would do, such as exercising on a homemade track, playing pretend and learning to read, after awhile you start to understand what difficulties Jack would face outside the room. Third, the subject matter is very, very difficult - abduction/kidnapping, captivity and rape.
Due to the topics of captivity, kidnapping and rape the book instilled a sense of fear right from the beginning. Initially I started to feel claustrophobic by the space they lived in. Jack's mother had no privacy and they had to make due with the space that they did have. Donoghue draws you in to their every day lives that it almost starts to feel normal and you hope the bad guy doesn't make an entrance into the small bubble Jack and his mother have created. When Old Nick makes an appearance I immediately got a sense of dread and anxiety because I never knew when he would come back and destroy the safe space again. I wanted to yell at the book/Old Nick to leave them alone. Although Donoghue brings him into their safe space but when he's not there he feels like a shadow that is always looming. When coming up to the parts of rape I had to put the book down. Although Donoghue didn't give to much detail the idea of it was horrendous. Plus the added fear of what can happen to Jack made it even worse.
I rated the book a 4 because I liked it and thought it is well written even though primarily it was difficult to read via a 5 year-old's perspective. I disliked it because of the subject matters of the book and I found one aspect to be unbelievable. I found it absurd that Jack's mother hatched a plan so quickly and implemented Jack into it. Jack was still the same 5 year old who thought his mother made believe all the things about Outside and now she's asking him to go on a harrowing task and be brave. Yes there was an element of speed in which the plan had to happen or else the opportunity would've been lost yet she expected a lot from Jack who never set foot outside. I'm glad and I cheered when the plan worked but my heart was in my throat the whole time. I was very scared for Ma and Jack. I couldn't imagine putting our lives in my child's hands and hoping they would be able to memorize a plan while being scared at the same time.
What did you think of Room? How did you cope reading through the difficult parts in the Room? What did you think of Jack? Ma? Did you have trouble reading Room? Have you seen the movie? If not, do you plan to? Is there anything you would change or think should be expanded on?
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