What I Read – Brooklyn

I’d never heard of this book and likely would have never even considered it, had I not stumbled upon the movie adaptation one night when I was desperate for something pleasant to watch. Apparently, the movie premiered in 2015 and was nominated for some awards. Looking back, it seems I’d spent that year in a pregnant, then postpartum haze and now I’m wondering what else I might have missed.

So, it was a Saturday night and Little B was fast asleep. I made myself a cup of tea and curled up in bed to start binging on the new season of Orange is the New Black. A few episodes in though, I realized I just…couldn’t. It was grating on my soul and while I rarely turn to drama/romance to cleanse my emotional palette, there was just something about the trailer for Brooklyn that pulled me in. I should point out here, I was also extremely hormonal that night and that probably played a pivitol role in this choice.

Brooklyn (the novel) was set in 1950s Ireland where a young woman named Eilish found herself without any prospects, financially or romantically. She lived with her widowed mother and older sister, while her three brothers had all moved to England to find work. Her sister, sharp and self-possessed, was always looking out for her and with the help of an Irish-American priest, she orchestrated Eilish’s move overseas to ensure a better future for her. Eilish was apprehensive but didn’t protest. She did what was expected of her, as she always did.

After a rough start in Brooklyn, she overcame her homesickness, made friends and found a boyfriend. Then suddenly, her family suffered an unexpected tragedy and she had to return to Ireland where her hometown friends and family expected her to remain. This left her torn between her new life in the United States and the familiarity and new possibilities of her old one so she had to make a decision. It’s a simple story with some subtle complexity. There wasn’t a perfect choice. She had two almost equally appealing options, but with some minor consequences on either side. Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and all that. As a reader, it was hard to decide which future to root for.

I picked up the book right after watching the movie because my weepy, pre-menstrual heart needed to confirm that she’d made her decision based purely on love. I have to tell you, after reading the book, I’m really not sure. The novel is actually less definitive than the movie in that regard. Otherwise, with only a few minor exceptions, the screen adaptation stayed true to the book, so there wasn’t much additional insight to be had by reading it.

It was a beautifully written book though. It reminded me a bit of Maeve Binchy. It had a real Irish chick-lit vibe that reminded me of the late 1990s when I used to plow through books of this genre on a weekly basis. That wasn’t really the best time in my life, but thinking about it makes me nostalgic for all the time and brain space I once had for leisure reading. However, I have to admit, if I had to choose, I think in this case I would pick the movie over the novel. The costumes and cinematography were stunning.

As for Orange is the New Black, I think I’m over it. I was finding last season was getting too outrageous and weird. This season, I just didn’t understand what I was watching. Perhaps I’ll just stick with pleasant movies like this for a while.

Any suggestions?

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