I listened to the audio version of this, and realized about halfway through that while the Irish accents were lovely, and the writing was very pretty, that I actually totally hated the wishy washy main character — and nothing ever really happens.
“She thought it was strange that the mere sensation of savouring the prospect of something could make her think for a while that is must be the prospect of home.”
Eilis Lacey is a young lady living in Ireland with her mother and older sister. While her sister is gainfully employed, her brothers have all left Ireland in order to get work. Eilis — despite a strong head for figures — has trouble getting work in town, other than once a week working for an abusive shopkeeper. When a priest visiting from Brooklyn comes to tell her that he could secure her a position in a Brooklyn shop, she decides to go to America.
Only, she doesn’t really decide. In fact, Eilis never decides a damn thing in the whole freaking book. Her mother & sister make her feel like she ought to go to Brooklyn — without really forcing her to. She’s lonely and homesick in Brooklyn, only she never seeks out help or companionship — instead, a supervisor at the shop involves the priest, who signs her up and pays for bookkeeping classes to keep her busy. She makes no friends, but spends a lot of time with the other ladies at her boardinghouse, just sort of living in the background of their conversations. Even when she eventually gets involved with a boy, she lets him take the lead with their relationship. Later, there’s another boy, and again, outside forces shape their relationship while Eilis wonders this and wonders that.
Her character also comes across very inconsistently. For instance, sometimes she seems very naive, not knowing how certain undergarments work or feeling nervous around people. Other times, she’s sarcastic with her roommates, or weirdly suspicious of her landlady. There was also an incredibly weird scene where one of her coworkers basically feels her up while Eilis is trying on swimsuits — a scene that made me wildly uncomfortable but didn’t seem to advance the plot, and never gets mentioned again. And another whole subplot about a flasher that lasts for a chapter then disappears.
Like I said, the writing (particularly the descriptions of Brooklyn and of everyone’s clothing) is very pretty, and I liked hearing about the differences between Ireland and Brooklyn at the time. But Eilis made me crazy, and the plot meanders around without really accomplishing anything. Has anyone seen the movie? Does it improve on the plot of the novel?