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Brooklyn [Hardcover]

Colm Toibin
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 5 2009
It is Enniscorthy in the southeast of Ireland in the early 1950s. Eilis Lacey is one among many of her generation who cannot find work at home. Thus when a job is offered in America, it is clear to everyone that she must go. Leaving her family and country, Eilis heads for unfamiliar Brooklyn, and to a crowded boarding house where the landlady’s intense scrutiny and the small jealousies of her fellow residents only deepen her isolation.

Slowly, however, the pain of parting is buried beneath the rhythms of her new life — until she begins to realize that she has found a sort of happiness. As she falls in love, news comes from home that forces her back to Enniscorthy, not to the constrictions of her old life, but to new possibilities which conflict deeply with the life she has left behind in Brooklyn.

In the quiet character of Eilis Lacey, Colm Tóibín has created one of fiction’s most memorable heroines and in Brooklyn, a luminous novel of devastating power. Tóibín demonstrates once again his astonishing range and that he is a true master of nuanced prose, emotional depth, and narrative virtuosity.

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Review

“Tóibín’s genius is that he makes it impossible for us to walk away.”
The New Yorker

"Brooklyn is Colm Tóibín's most beautifully executed novel to date.... Reading Tóibín is like watching an artist paint one small stroke after another until suddenly the finished picture emerges to shattering effect."
Times Literary Supplement

"Disarmingly effective and affecting."
National Post

"A small masterpiece"
The Guardian

"Tóibín is himself a master — like his countryman William Trevor — of a kind of deep gentleness, even as the darkness falls on his characters.... Here is a writer who quietly watches and reports, shocked at nothing, missing nothing."
Globe and Mail

About the Author

Colm Tóibín’s most recent novel, The Master, won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, Le prix du meilleur livre étranger, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. His other books of fiction include The Story of the Night, The Blackwater Lightship, a finalist for the Man Booker Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and the short fiction collection Mothers and Sons. Tóibín was one of the 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize judges in Toronto. He lives in Dublin, Ireland.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Staggering in its simplicity. Aug. 26 2009
By Schmadrian TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
As a reader, when I read a novel, especially when I'm 'reviewing' one, in the end, my primary question is: 'Am I glad I spent the time on it?'

As a writer, when I read a novel (or a screenplay, or article, or any other piece of writing), especially when I'm 'reviewing' one, in the end, my primary question is: 'Would I like to have written it?'

In the case of Tóibín's 'Brooklyn', the answers would be, in order, 'Yes', and 'No'.

'Brooklyn' was such a strange animal to me. I write as I speak, as I converse, as I express myself in most ways: pithiness rarely rules the day. So to have such a poignant tale told with such reserve, by way of a narrative that's not that far off point-form...this style of writing is not my default choice. However, perhaps because of its -to me, maybe just to me- unusual qualities in this regard, it found a special place in my heart. Its quirkiness was endearing...and I do not mean that in a patronizing way in the least. (For the record, my heroes are John Irving, Pat Conroy, Mark Helprin and Ann-Marie MacDonald. One of my favourite stretches within a novel would be the first forty-or-so pages of Don Delillo's 'Underworld'. Now *that* is writing.) Yes, I'd be curious to read a 'filled-out' version of this 269-page threadbare novel. Yes, there were times I longed for 'more'. But its charms...and its effectiveness...were beyond question for me. So yes, I'm glad I spent the time reading it, I enjoyed it a ton.

But I could never see writing it. If I tried to accomplish even a short story cut from the same cloth, it would, no doubt, be terribly affected, and if successful, more an exercise in determination than creation.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Set in Ireland and Brooklyn in the 1950's this rather sad, melancholy novel traces the gradual maturing of Eilis Lacey who leaves her homeland and her beloved home for a time to work in America, leaving her mother, her sister Rose, and her friends. Living in the small village of Enniscorthy and still young and full of hopes and dreams, Eilis finds work at a shop, but the kindly Father Flood, the family pastor instills in Eilis a sense of adventure even as she bears the knowing gossip of her friends and the constant pressure from her mother to cross the Atlantic to seek her fortune. With Eilis's older bothers long gone to England for work, she grows older, always in the shadow of Rose, an avid golf player who seems to become ever more glamorous over the years. Elias is proud of her sister, of how she takes care of her appearance and whom she mixes with, so its not surprising that Eilis heeds her advice and tries to bury all of the fear and dread that she's going to lose her world in Ireland forever. She was looking forward to America and leaving home for the first time. America might be foreign but there was also "an almost compensating glamour attached to it."

Throughout her journey, Eilis is surrounded by characters who seem to have the best of intentions. Luckily, the kindly blond haired Georgina helps Eilis on the stormy voyage when she's wracked with sea sickness as she vomits up all of her boiled mutton amidst all of the shuddering and lunging as the huge ocean liner moves forward. Upon her arrival on Brooklyn, Ellis cannot believe the extent of her naiveté as she's forced to put up with the muddy humidity of summer and the freezing winters with the biting wind, carrying ice.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This is a must read Oct. 30 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If you are a fan of Colm Toibin's work, Brooklyn will not disappoint you. It is at the same time elegantly written and a page-turner.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Brooklyn Feb. 4 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book was very good. It revived memories of what life was like after the War and how relationships were given time to slowly develop. The ending I thought was very rushed and disappointed me after the rest of the book being so good.
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