From BBC Radio 4 – Book at Bedtime:
Niamh Cusack reads Colm Toibin’s story of duty, love and a girl who moved from the south of Ireland to seek a new life in New York in the 1950s.
The novel opens in the small town of Enniscorthy in the south east of Ireland in the early 1950s. Eilis Lacey is one among many of her generation who can find no work. Her three brothers have already left to seek their fortunes in England; she, her sister Rose and her widowed mother are all that remain at home.
When a priest comes home from America for a holiday, he recognises both Eilis’ plight and her potential.
2/10: Prompted by Father Flood, home from America for a holiday, Rose sets about organising her younger sister. Almost before she knows it, or has had time to say goodbye, Eilis is crossing the Atlantic, heading for a job on the shop floor of a Brooklyn department store, lodgings with an Irish landlady and a brand new life.
3/10: Eilis has lodgings with an Irish landlady and a job on the shop floor of a department store. Every day a whole world of things are new, but letters from home remind her of just what she is missing.
4/10: Christmas looms, as Eilis struggles to adapt to her new life in a city far from home. But she is not the only member of the Irish diaspora feeling homesick – helping Father Flood tend to his flock brings comfort and cheer.
5/10: As Bartocci’s opens its doors to all customers, whatever their colour, Eilis fights the prejudice of her fellow lodgers. Even at Father Flood’s Irish dance night, not everyone is Irish.
6/10: As Eilis’ romance with Tony Fiorello blossoms, life in Brooklyn takes on a new rhythm and it is time for Eilis to experience her first Italian meal.
7/10: Tony takes Eilis for a trip to Coney Island to celebrate her exam success. But Eilis’ new found happiness is short-lived, as news from home turns her American life sour.
8/10: Eilis’ happiness in Brooklyn has been shattered by the news of her beloved sister’s death and Tony is the only one who can offer her comfort.
9/10: Following her sister’s death, Eilis returns to her lonely mother in Enniscorthy for a month’s visit. Once there it is hard to tell the truth about her last action in America, and harder still to resist the lure of the familiar
10/10: Home for a holiday and to comfort her grieving mother, Eilis has been unable to resist the lure of the familiar. Meanwhile, Tony waits for her in Brooklyn.
4* Nora Webster
3* The Master
TBR The Heather Blazing
TBR The Testament of Mary
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