Proving that recommendation, however indirect, is always the best way of choosing a book, I was given Brooklyn to read by my husband who had himself picked it on the strength of someone's ‘book of the year' choice in a newspaper.

I was struggling through Iris Murdoch's The Sea, The Sea at the time – and, given that reading time is in short supply these days and conscious that I had a newsletter to write, I happily switched horses mid-stream. Or perhaps that should be mid-sea.

If it has taken me a long time to finish the new book, that is no reflection on the quality of the story but more on my memory because I left my half-read copy in Australia over Christmas - and only recently managed to get to a bookshop to buy another copy.

In fact, you should take that as an indication of how good the book is – I have left many half-read books behind in the past and never felt the need to get hold of another copy to finish it.

Anyway, Brooklyn alternates between 1950s Ireland and New York in the person of Eilis Lacey, one of the many Irish who emigrated to the United States at that time to find work.

Initially homesick, she soon settles into life in New York and is building her life there until a family death calls her home to Ireland, where she finds herself torn between the two different worlds and two different men who personify those two worlds.

And in many ways that is that. It's a simple story and much of its strength is in portraying a world that seems so far away even though it wasn't that long ago.

However, it also represents much more fundamental issues of duty, identity and even opportunity that transcend the time.

A really good book and well worth buying. Twice if you have to.

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín