I was so impressed by this novel. I fell in love with the film version first, and I wasn't sure that the book could match it. I know... often the book is better than the movie, but sometimes it's the opposite. Who wouldn't rather watch The Notebook or Bridget Jones' Diary rather than read those books? So, while I was eager to read the book and delve more deeply into Eilis Lacey's story of immigration, love, grief, and growing up--and better understand her heart and mind--I was also hesitant since I didn't want to be disappointed. I was not disappointed.
The book had only minor differences from the film. In both, the story is a quiet but strong one. There are many endearing characters, and only a couple that you love to hate. There are a few laugh out loud moments.
What really stands out about the novel is the spare language. I think every word was chosen with care by the author. He isn't at all flowery in his descriptions of Ireland or New York; he doesn't go over board with inner monologues. But there are some passages that really capture a feeling. Like homesickness...
“She was nobody here. It was not just that she had no friends and family; it was rather that she was a ghost in this room, in the streets on the way to work, on the shop floor. Nothing meant anything. The rooms in the house on Friary Street belonged to her, she thought; when she moved in them she was really there. In the town, if she walked to the shop or to the Vocational School, the air, the light, the ground, it was all solid and part of her, even if she met no one familiar. Nothing here was part of her. It was false, empty, she thought. She closed her eyes and tried to think, as she had done so many times in her life, of something she was looking forward to, but there was nothing. Not the slightest thing. Not even Sunday. Nothing maybe except sleep, and she was not even certain she was looking forward to sleep. In any case, she could not sleep yet, since it was not yet nine o’clock. There was nothing she could do. It was as though she had been locked away.”
I hope to see more film versions of Toibin's work as I think his writing style lends itself well to screenplays. And I may just read another book by him, too!