Brooklyn-Berlin Intercultural Reading Groups, Jan Bild

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Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín The story of a typical Irish girl? A reluctant emigrant? A deceptively simple story of departure and return - of where we belong? A choice between personal freedom and duty? Eilis Lacey, the heroine of Colm Tóibín’s new novel, lives with her widowed mother and sister in Enniscorthy, County Wexford - where Tóibín was born and raised. It’s the early fifties and there aren’t many jobs for young people in the town. Eilis’s older sister, Rose, works in a local office, but her three brothers have all gone to work in England. Eilis can’t find anything better than a Sunday shift in a grocery shop. One afternoon Rose plays a round of golf with a priest who, before he emigrated to America, used to know their father. He comes to tea and suggests Eilis could get a job very easily in the United States. 'In the silence that had lingered, she realised, it had somehow been tacitly arranged that Eilis would go to America.’ Eilis is not naturally adventurous. She has expected to stay in Ireland and has her future mapped out in her mind. Like most young Irish girls at the time. ‘Until now, Eilis had always presumed that she would live in the town all her life, as her mother had done, knowing everyone, having the same friends and neighbours, the same routines in the same streets. She had expected she would find a job in the town and then marry someone and give up the job and have children.’ At the beginning we see Eilis as an ordinary, reserved, quiet, home-loving girl who is interested in bookkeeping - not the stuff of exciting heroines. She seems content to be in the shadow of her more glamorous sister Rose. As Tóibín sets the scene in the first paragraphs, Eilis sits at a window watching her sister coming back from work. On Eilis`s lap is a manual about systems of accounting. Attractive and lively Rose could be assumed to be the heroine. She is

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