Brooklyn, Colm Toibin

Firstly – a big welcome back to Lara and Margaret who’ve both returned to us, to Olga and Cathy who are still quite new, and to Joy and Jenny who were trying us for the first, but hopefully not the last, time!

We were a big group this time, but nonetheless Brooklyn was unanimously popular.  We all loved and admired the beauty and simplicity of Toibin’s writing, but differed on our reactions to Eilis.  All but one of us thought she was extremely passive through-out the book, at times frustratingly so.  We talked about whether this was her natural character, or a product of the time and place in which she lived, particularly the Catholic sense of duty.  We also talked about Eilis’s sister Rose, and her motives for ensuring that it was Eilis and not herself that went to Brooklyn – motives we thought were an interesting mix of altruism and selfishness.  The incident with the shop-floor manager while Eilis was trying on swimming costumes was brought up, although none of us really had any explanations as to why that section was there.

We liked the fact that we could see how Eilis had changed as a person by the time she returned to Ireland – it was even suggested that Eilis fell in love with her new self in Ireland.  Certainly she wanted no more to do with Rose’s clothes, despite looking up to her sister’s taste and clothes before she left.

Without wishing to give away the end I would say that we all agreed with her choice, but also agreed that had she not effectively been cornered into the decision there would probably have been a different ending.  Unusually, many members said they would really like to have continued with the character of Eilis and to have found out what happened next – the first time we’ve made a plea for a sequel!

We then moved on to our choice for the July meeting, and looked at the various classics that members had brought along.  Howard’s End, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Pride and Predjudice, Middlemarch and Wuthering Heights were all considered, but in the end the clear favourite was … Vanity Fair!

I also put forward some suggestions (well, quite a few actually) for books for us to read in the Nov-Feb meetings.  They included the Read Regional novels, some suggestions that came up from discussions with New Writing North, and also four books that were put forward when we choose our February book.  The plan is that everyone picks the four books that they would most like to read, and either email me the four names (in order of preference if there is one) to or else let me know their choices at the next meeting. I’ll then hopefully add up the suggestions and come up with a list of the four most popular – how’s that for forward-planning?

I’m now leaving Brooklyn and heading back to post-war Warwickshire, to meet The Little Stranger – see you all on 9th June to find out what you made of it all!




Meetings take place on the second Wednesday of the month from 7.30pm until 9pm with reader in residence Cathy McCracken.

We meet in the Windsor Hotel on South Parade, Whitley Bay. Come into Reception and go through the double doors in front of you, then turn left and follow signs to the Conference Room.

If you would like more information about what the group is reading, please visit


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