An atmospheric tale in need of a stronger final act. 3.5/5.
The blurb: Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War Two. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America — to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood “just like Ireland” — she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind.
Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, who loves the Dodgers and his big Italian family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love with Tony, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.
This was my first audiobook! Or, at least, my first audiobook since I used to listen to Disney stories on cassette tapes when I was eight. And I’m very pleased to say that, overall, I enjoyed Brooklyn.
The story is highly atmospheric. The author does a great job of capturing the different spirit of a small town in Ireland and then Brooklyn in the 1950s. The story has a good range of characters, which are all brought to life by Niamh Cusack’s voice and great skill with accents (particular credit to her for being able to switch between Belfast, south-west Ireland and Brooklyn in seconds).
Unfortunately, when Cusack isn’t reading dialogue, the tone she uses for the narration (and there’s a lot of it) was rather monotonous, bordering on hypnotic in places. The whole story is told in third person from Eilis’ point of view and so most of the narration is her thoughts and impressions. Unfortunately, the somewhat dreamy tone Cusack’s used to narrate these thoughts made me feel Eilis was detached and slightly unfeeling. If I’d read the book, I may have had an entirely different view of the character, warmed to her more easily and so enjoyed the story a lot more.
And finally: the ending. What?! As we neared the end, I’d come up with three different possible scenarios for how things would play out. I thought all of them would be suitably dramatic and satisfying… but I didn’t get any of them. It was like someone was in the middle of a sentence, stopped talking abruptly, held up a sign saying “The End” and then skipped away laughing at my dumbstruck expression. I still feel cheated!
Overall: Brooklyn was a positive first audiobook experience. One day I plan to see the film adaptation; I just hope they did something different with the ending!
Claire Huston / Art and Soul