I am at that briefest of times in a reader’s life – right before the midpoint in a really good novel.
I will never again know just this much and no more about the main character in Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn. In a short while I will have moved past page 117. In the remaining 145 pages, Eilis Lacey will develop in ways that I can certainly guess at. I prefer to hope, though, that my heart and my mind will be stilled or startled by what this author does with her.
If I weren’t writing, I would be reading on right now. It was what I was doing at 2:30 this morning when I could not go back to sleep after my BlackBerry vibrated a needless alert to email. Turning over felt a futile gesture, an inconsequential effort. Soon I was sitting with a mug of hot chocolate and reading about Christmas in 1950s Brooklyn.
If someone asked me about the draw of the character Eilis Lacey, I would have to explain situations where the circumstances of her life are about to change through the agency of other characters. More than once the moment shortly comes when Eilis entertains other explanations for the offers people are making to her – explanations other than the one that had first appeared plausible. She has to admit that people may know more than they are saying. Or they may not.
What her Irish heart is feeling and how open a role those feelings can or should play in her American life seems to be the puzzle for this intelligent young woman.
It takes a masterful writer to determine that just such a puzzle can be narrated – and ought to be.
Excuse me while I read.