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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Staggering in its simplicity.
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...
Published on Aug. 26 2009 by Schmadrian

versus
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Underwritten to the extreme
I know how respected and Booker-nominated this author is and this is the first time I've picked up one of his books. I was disappointed. I never engaged with the main character Eilis, in fact I found her irritating to the extreme. Toibin's style of writing was pedantic and several subplots rambled off by themselves.

The secondary love affair of Eilis did not...
Published on Jan. 7 2010 by Brigid O'Sullivan


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Staggering in its simplicity., Aug. 26 2009
By 
Schmadrian - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Brooklyn (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. This is no knock against Tóibín; he is a master storyteller, in full command of his talents, and clearly told the tale precisely as he'd wanted to.

At the end, I was squirming, very uncomfortable with what was bound to happen as the story ran out to its conclusion. And backtracking to what had led there, I had to applaud the author's efforts, his construction, and the care with which he related what he related to the reader.

Having said all that, I'm rather amazed that it was 'twice short-listed for the Booker Prize'. It's good, sometimes great, but not a piece I would say was worthy of that degree of praise. It is an accomplishment, entertaining, thoughtful. But not something that will be remembered with any deep sentiment ten or twenty years from now.

(Personal rating: 8/10)
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "The sadness won't last so we'll do what we can for you", April 19 2009
By 
Walter Hypes - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Brooklyn (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. There are also the days working on the shop floor of Bartocci's which seem to be the longest in her life. She battles crippling terrible weight of homesickness as Enniscorthy comes to her in flashing pictures and the life she had lost and would never have again. Meanwhile, she's stuck in Brooklyn with no friends and family. Even the other girls who lodge at Mrs. Kehoe's boarding house with their daily talk of changing fashions can do little to assuage the sadness that seems to melt into and float on the surface, constantly distracting her.

In this elegant novel, Eilis's life in Brooklyn is defined the social property of the time and also the constraints of religion, and her status as a girl of quality. Forced to follow the rigid rules of Mrs. Kehoe, her Mass on Sundays and the disapproving talk of boyfriends, Eilis just can't escape the feeling that Mrs. Kehoe is taking advantage and ultimately judging her, especially when she meets Tony, a friendly Italian American. It doesn't take long for her to begin to slip into Tony's world and that of his family and the apartment were he lives with his parents and his three brothers. After a sudden courtship - the trips to Manhattan to see films, to the beach at Coney Island, and to baseball games - Eilis is tumbled into self-doubt when she realizes that all Tony wants to do is to marry her while she harbors grand plans of a career as a bookkeeper. When disaster strikes and there's terrible news from home, Eilis is plunged into a new dilemma, forced to confront the dark confusion of her decisions. It is ironically Jim Farrell's clear blue eyes, not Tony's, that linger on her with an interest that is unmistakable. Soon enough, Eilis finds everything that has happened in Brooklyn almost dissolving, no longer richly present in her life, and she sees all three of them - Tony, Jim, her mother as figures she can only damage.

This novel speaks to a disparate and questionable long-distance love and the challenges and rewards of those who brave such a test. Eilis and Tony are quite different, but she eventually falls for his easy and relaxed manner, and that of his affable family, a fact that adds an added weight to their romance as it progresses from friendship to flirtation and then to a serious commitment as Tony weaves his inevitable web around his muse. But as the climax of the novel suggests, Eilis' questionable obligation to Tony comes at a terrible price, the moral confines of the church and society eventually making Eilis's duty and commitment almost impossible to bear. Meanwhile, this gentle but rather uneventful novel plods along, the narrative lacking tension even though the author's specialty is the obvious growth of Eilis as a woman and as an independent spirit who is forced to face the ramifications of her life choices. Mike Leonard April 09.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This is a must read, Oct. 30 2013
By 
Shawn Murphy - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Brooklyn (Kindle Edition)
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
By 
Lorraine Pogue (Vancouver, BC Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Brooklyn: A Novel (Paperback)
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Underwritten to the extreme, Jan. 7 2010
By 
This review is from: Brooklyn (Hardcover)
I know how respected and Booker-nominated this author is and this is the first time I've picked up one of his books. I was disappointed. I never engaged with the main character Eilis, in fact I found her irritating to the extreme. Toibin's style of writing was pedantic and several subplots rambled off by themselves.

The secondary love affair of Eilis did not ring true for a second and the ending of the novel left me frustrated and feeling slightly ripped off.

However, the book got 3 stars from me for the vivid descriptions of small town Ireland and its characters in the 60's and the crossing by liner to New York in that era was beautifully done.

Would I go back to Toibin for second helpings? No.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not much going on here, April 27 2010
By 
Kona (Emerald City) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Brooklyn (Hardcover)
After WWII, a young Irish woman named Eilis comes to America and settles in Brooklyn. She works in a ladies' clothing store, goes to night school, and meets a nice young man.

If you think that was a generic synopsis, wait till you read this book. It's nothing but generic sentences lumped into non-descript paragraphs. There is very little 'in the moment' action and every page reads like a summary ("She went to work and then came home," etc.) Nothing much happens until the last 30 pages.

There is neither action, drama, nor antagonist and I would hardly call Eilis a heroine; she's meek and mousy, says yes to everything, and is so stoic she lacks personality. Reading this book was like looking at a painting through gauze; it was okay but lacked enough detail to make me really like it.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brooklyn, Feb. 28 2010
By 
Alice Coles "book reader" (Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Brooklyn (Hardcover)
This was a very nice story. It holds your interest all the way through. It is a well written book.
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Brooklyn: A Novel
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