Audiobook Review: Brooklyn by Colm Toibin, narrated by Niamh Cussack

18 Dec

Brooklyn audio_It is Ireland in the early 1950s and for Eilis Lacey, as for so many young Irish girls, opportunities are scarce. So when her sister arranges for her to emigrate to New York, Eilis knows she must go, leaving behind her family and her home for the first time.

Arriving in a crowded lodging house in Brooklyn, Eilis can only be reminded of what she has sacrificed. She is far from home – and homesick. And just as she takes tentative steps towards friendship, and perhaps something more, Eilis receives news which sends her back to Ireland. There she will be confronted by a terrible dilemma – a devastating choice between duty and one great love.

I’ve been meaning to read Brooklyn for a number of years; in fact I’ve had a copy sat on my bookshelf for a long time. With the release of the film recently I really wanted to read the book before I saw the movie so when I was offered the chance to review the audiobook, I jumped at it! Having had such a good experience with the audio version of Go Set A Watchman earlier this year, I was keen to try another audio book.

The Brooklyn audiobook is unabridged and narrated by the actress Niamh Cusack. One of the key things I’ve found that can make or break an audiobook for me is the narrator – being familiar with Niamh, I felt confident that I’d like her narration and I wasn’t disappointed.

Brooklyn tells the story of Eilis Lacey who lives in Ireland with her mother and sister. Despite being bright and eager, job opportunities in early 1950s Ireland are severely limited for Eilis. Her brothers have already left the family home for jobs in England and when Eilis is offered a job in America she decides she should take it. Toibin captures the enormity of leaving a small home town for a new life beautifully. In an age before quick, cheap travel and mobile communications, Eilis makes a commitment that cannot be reversed easily. I enjoyed listening to the details of the voyage and my heart was very much with Eilis as she left the familiarity of home.

As the story developed I enjoyed the way that Eilis’s character developed too. The freedoms, opportunities and new ways and fashions that she finds in America are a stark contrast to life back in Ireland. The impact of this change on Eilis really struck home and made me think about how our experiences form us and that we are forever changed by them. It’s the mark of a strong character and a clever author that a character can do things that you don’t agree with or necessarily like and yet you forgive them. I was disappointed in Eilis’s actions in the second half of the book but I understood fully how she made (or didn’t make) her choices and they highlighted starkly the two very different worlds that she has a foot in. This aspect is particularly clear in the love story/romance angle to the book which is well woven into the story and I didn’t envy Eilis the choice she has to make at the end of the novel.

Niamh Cusack does an excellent job of narrating the book and really brought the story to life for me. I loved the voices that she did for the different characters and I could have listened to her all day. I’m probably one of the last people to read/listen to this book but if you haven’t I thoroughly recommend it. Despite an ending that was a little to open for my liking (I need to know what happened next!), I enjoyed the story and I can’t wait to see the film version which has had excellent reviews too.

The Brooklyn audiobook is available now from Audible.

I’d like to thank Audible for providing a review copy of this audiobook.

Find out more about Colm Toibin and his writing at: http://www.colmtoibin.com/

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