This may be a first: I read a book and saw the film adaptation of it in the same week! We'd been assigned Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín for our book group meeting on Thursday, but I'd been so swamped with work in the weeks leading up to it that I ended up reading the whole thing in two or three sittings early that same week. Then, over the weekend, a few of us went to see the movie. And, it is also one of those rare occasions when I loved the book—but am starting to think I loved the movie even better.
Here's the no-spoiler synopsis: It takes place around 1950, and Eilis (pronounced "ale-ish") lives in a small town in Ireland, where there's not much going on—certainly there aren't many job opportunities. A priest arranges for her to move to America, where he has landed her a job in a fancy department store and a room in a boarding house. Eilis has never been away from home, but she gets on that big ship and sails away to her new life in Brooklyn. At first she is so homesick she can barely stand it, but she eventually starts getting used to things—including her American boyfriend. Then she gets news of a death in the family and has to go back to Ireland. Back home, she is seen as worldly and glamorous, and without even trying she lands a good office job and a boyfriend. What should she do? It won't give anything away to say that in the book version, I was really torn about what she would do—and, just as importantly, what I thought she should do. It is a rare book indeed where I am not sure how it will turn out and could really imagine either ending. The ending of the movie version was much more clear-cut, but not in a Hollywood-ized way—that is, I didn't feel as though loose ends were tied up in an overly "convenient" way, I just thought they could have done more to make her decision a little more tenuous.
The main reason I might have preferred the movie was because I couldn't take my eyes off of Saoirse Ronan, who played Eilis. She completely inhabited the role and I just loved watching her face and the way she moved. She was outstanding. Really, the entire cast was terrific—from Eilis's American boyfriend to her landlady (and the other lodgers in her boarding house) to her sister and mother. I guess I just felt I got to know Eilis much better in the film than in the book. In any event, I don't think you could go wrong reading the book before the movie or vice versa; they are both lovely. Has anyone else out there read and/or seen Brooklyn? What did you think?