Study Guide

Brooklyn: A Novel Part 3

By Colm Tóibín

Part 3

  • It's January and colder than an igloo up in here. The winters in New York are worse than the ones in Ireland, but Eilis is grateful to have 24/7 heat.
  • One night, Mrs. Kehoe abruptly (and silently) invites Eilis into her sitting room. She tells her that Miss Keegan is moving out, and that she wants to give Eilis the now-vacant basement.
  • Eilis is skeptical, but Mrs. Kehoe insists that it is "the biggest, the warmest," and "the quietest" bedroom in the place (3.9). Okay—whatever, lady.
  • Though hesitant, Eilis moves down on Sunday. Mrs. Kehoe makes sure that they do it on the low because she claims that the other tenants will be jealous.
  • Shocker—the room is gorgeous. Epic win, Eilis! Mrs. Kehoe wasn't lying about the other girls being jealous, either—Miss McAdams grills her about it the following weekend.
  • Father Flood decides to start hosting dances at the parish, starting the "following Sunday" (3.80). Eilis secretly wants to go with the fun-loving Patty and Diana, but she feels obligated to go with the boring Miss McAdam and Sheila Heffernan.
  • And she does indeed go with the boring ladies. This is made even worse by the fact that Patty and Diana look mega-chic when they finally show up.
  • Miss Fortini is waiting on the shop floor when Eilis arrives to work on Monday. She explains to Eilis and another worker, Miss Delano, that a big change is happening. Drum roll...
  • It turns out that Bartocci's is now opening its doors to African-Americans. Miss Fortini and Miss Bartocci stress that they should treat all customers equally regardless of race.
  • The first day is a little awkward, but it goes by as smooth as silk. Eilis is struck by how "glamorous" these ladies are (3.147).
  • Eilis loves her new room, BTW. She's a little bit less enthused about her classes, as Mr. Rosenblum doesn't seem to be reading from any book that she owns.
  • One day, after class, she finally asks him what's up. He seems frazzled, but gives her a list of books on corporate law to buy from a specialty store in Manhattan.
  • So she does. When she mentions to the bookkeeper that she's taking a class with Mr. Rosenblum, he alludes to him having escaped the Nazis during the holocaust. This goes over Eilis' head.
  • Back at home, there's a new tenant—the gangly Dolores Grace–who Mrs. Kehoe convinces Eilis to take to the dance tonight. Better than those other two boring girls, though, right?
  • Dolores does not look good, even after she gets ready. Yikes. Although even Eilis is a little embarrassed, they chill together at the dance nonetheless.
  • Eilis greets Patty and Diane when they arrive, and Patty motions for her to come to the bathroom. There, they put on some makeup and do their hair and all of that other fun girls-in-the-bathroom stuff.
  • When she returns, Eilis notices a dude staring at her. Like, staring. He's pretty short, but hunky otherwise, so she accepts when he asks her to dance.
  • His name is Tony and they spend the whole night dancing. And boy do we mean dancing: "they were wrapped around each other" (3.318).
  • Later in the night, he tells her that he scoped her out at the first dance but wasn't able to work up the nerve to approach her. D'aww.
  • At the end of the night, he drops a bombshell—he's not Irish. He's (gasp!) Italian, despite having blonde hair and blue eyes. He's also a plumber.
  • He walks her home and asks her to go to the dance with him the following week. We're coming down with a severe case of the adorables.
  • Mysteriously, Eilis starts feeling less homesick. (Totally a coincidence.) Still, Tony's good looks (and short stature) are the hot topic of conversation at the dinner table that week.
  • Mrs. Kehoe meets Tony after beating Eilis to the door that Friday night. Drat! Luckily, Tony makes a good impression by falsely claiming Irish descent. Eilis doesn't want to take any chances, however: he is to come straight to her basement door (which is outside) next time.
  • They go out to dinner first, then the dance. They have a rollicking good evening, and we'd reckon that Eilis is starting to fall for this goofball.
  • At the next dance, Tony invites Eilis to a movie. Though she wants to go, she can't—she has classes that night. This is the first that Tony is hearing about Eilis' college career, BTW.
  • When Eilis mentions her weird interaction with the bookkeeper about Mr. Rosenblum, Tony acts strange and maintains "the same serious expression on his face" for the rest of the night (3.437).
  • Instead of going to the movies, Tony just walks her home from work on Thursday. They end up seeing the premiere of the hot new flick Singin' in the Rain the following Saturday, though.
  • From then on, Tony makes it a ritual to walk Eilis home from class on Thursdays, while Saturdays are movie nights.
  • Finally, Eilis decides to write Rose about Tony. She does it on the low, however, sending it directly to Rose's office so that her mom doesn't see. She leaves out the "plumber" thing, though.
  • She and Tony run into Father Flood soon after, which seems orchestrated by Rose. The two bros get along splendidly, however—all "Dodger fan[s]" are pretty much blood brothers (3.447).
  • Eilis is doing well at work, too—she even regularly lunches with Miss Fortini. For her part, Miss Fortini thinks that Tony sounds great and that Eilis should lock that down.
  • Things seem to be heading that way, anyway. Eilis promises to meet Tony's family after exams, which is scary enough, but then Tony offhandedly references their future kids. Eek!
  • He also starts telling her that he loves her, which she responds to with silence. Finally, after he says it to her once more outside of her apartment, she rushes inside without saying goodbye.
  • She sees him again after class that Thursday. She actually creeps on him for a bit, watching him from afar, which only makes her feel tenderer towards him.
  • They greet each other and Eilis blurts out that she'll say "I love you" if he does from now on. Uh... it's a little roundabout, but okay? Tony, naturally, is giddy.
  • Eilis finds her exams "easier than she had expected" (3.499). Of course, the truly scary event is still to come—meeting Tony's family.
  • Tony has three brothers: Laurence and Maurice, who are older, and little Frank, who's eight. Everybody looks legit Italian, unlike Tony.
  • They live in a small place. The three brothers share one bedroom, while their parents fold out a bed in the living room when night comes.
  • Eilis is blown away by their spaghetti. Better than potatoes, right? Frank is a charming little rapscallion, and he proudly tells her how much he hates Irish people.
  • Suddenly, there's a knock on the door, which Tony's dad answers. He returns and tells Tony that he has to do a plumbing job to do right now, which is super-lame.
  • That leaves Eilis alone with the family, which is a little awkward. They eat what seems like tiramisu and drink espresso—these guys are so Italian.
  • Frank tells Eilis that Tony's last girlfriend broke up with him after he took her on a ride at Coney Island that had made her puke.
  • Eilis and Tony actually decide to go to Coney Island sometime soon. This shocks Miss Fortini—Eilis better start working on her figure now because Italians are crazy picky about that.
  • Miss Fortini gets some bathing suits delivered to the store so that Eilis can try them on. It's really awkward—Miss Fortini seems awfully pushy about seeing Eilis naked—but it works.
  • One night, she finds a letter from Brooklyn College–"she had passed her first-year exams in all subjects" (3.589). Huzzah! She decides to hit up Father Flood to let him know the good news.
  • Father Flood is psyched. Eilis tries to pay her tuition for the next semester, but Father Flood explains that he already got a parishioner to take care of it. What a hustler!
  • Tony's excited too, so they set a date to go to the beach. In preparation, Eilis buys a new hat, a beach towel, and a revolutionary new invention called "sunglasses" (3.612).
  • They head out the next Sunday. It's a long subway ride, so they immediately get into the water when they arrive.
  • Because Tony isn't a great swimmer, they stay in the shallows and cuddle up on each other. Also, Tony is either really excited or he has an eel in his pocket, if you catch our drift.
  • It's getting so hot that they're about to turn on the air conditioning at Bartocci's. Unfortunately, summer also means that Tony can't talk about anything except for baseball.
  • Finally, Eilis bites the bullet and goes to a game with Tony and his bros. She's grown fond of all of them: the quiet and nerdy Maurice, the brash Laurence, and the lovably goofy Frank.
  • It takes a bit, but she eventually gets into the game. She also has her first beer and hot dog combo, which warms our hearts.
  • Although she spends Christmas "in the parish hall" once again, she spends most of the holiday season with Tony (3.665). That's when he tells her about his family's big plans.
  • Maurice and Laurence recently bought a plot of land on Long Island, where they plan to build five houses. Three will be sold and one will be for the family—the fifth, Tony hopes, will belong to him and Eilis.
  • This, of course, is Tony's way of asking Eilis to marry him. She has no idea how to respond and merely smiles—she ends up writing Rose for advice a few days later.
  • A few weeks later, she's surprised to see Father Flood stroll into Bartocci's. She's even more surprised when Miss Fortini asks her to come downstairs.
  • To our horror, Father Flood reveals that Rose is dead—she passed away in the middle of the previous night. Eilis' mom will be calling her later that night so they can grieve together.
  • Eilis is in shock, but she takes the call. Rose has apparently known that she's had a "bad heart" for a while, but has been keeping it secret from the family (3.734).
  • Eilis is sobbing by the end of the call and keeps sobbing all the way home. Tony is there waiting when she arrives, and they all decide to go to mass tomorrow to commemorate Rose.
  • She decides to keep working all that week to keep her mind off her grief. Even though they don't go out on dates much, Tony helps her through things as best as she can.
  • One night, she finds a letter from her brother Jack. He explains that he and the bros need to go back to England, and that she should return home to help mom out.
  • Impulsively, Eilis decides to go to Tony's house in the middle of the night. Her arrival wakes up the entire clan, so she and Tony head off to a diner.
  • Tony is hard to read when she explains the letter to him. He walks her home, and when he hugs her goodbye, she starts sobbing.
  • Eilis is too distraught to go inside alone, so she quietly leads Tony into her room. They end up on the bed, then start kissing, and then…
  • Well, you get it, right? It's not exactly pleasant for Eilis (Tony seems—ahem—well-endowed), but they end up doing the dirty deed twice that night.
  • The next day, she finds Mrs. Kehoe acting super weird. Uh-oh—did she hear? It certainly seems like that, especially because Diana keeps dropping subtle hints...
  • She sees Tony two nights later and makes him promise to go to confession with her. She decides to go to Tony's church, where no one knows her, and it's actually pretty painless.
  • When Eilis comes home, she finds that Mrs. Kehoe has put a lock on the basement, which forces her to use the front door. She claims that it's because of creepers, but Eilis knows what's up.
  • She sees Father Flood after mass and he looks at her strangely. Oh no—did Mrs. Kehoe tell him too? She decides to visit him after eating "lunch with Tony and his family" (3.868).
  • It seems like he knows what happened, but doesn't come out and say it. Without having any reason for her visit, however, Eilis blurts out that she wants to return to Ireland for a month.
  • Though she hadn't planned it, Eilis is excited by this turn of events. She's so nice to Mrs. Kehoe that the lady even takes the lock off her gate.
  • As her second semester exams approach, she finally tells Tony that she's visiting home. He looks nervous, then asks her to "'marry [him] before" she leaves (3.905). He doesn't need anything fancy—just a simple courthouse ceremony.
  • She has dinner at his house the Sunday before the ceremony, and it seems like his family has guessed what's up. To be honest, that sort of excites her.
  • They get married soon after exams, lickety split. They go out to Coney Island afterwards, and she looks at her ring with happiness.