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Brooklyn: A Novel by Colm Toibin

Brooklyn: A Novel (edition 2010)

by Colm Toibin

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3,2992321,655 (3.69)446
Title:Brooklyn: A Novel
Authors:Colm Toibin
Info:Publisher Unknown (2010)
Collections:Read in 2010, Bookclub, Your library

Work details

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

  1. 60
    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (kiwiflowa)
  2. 72
    'Tis, a Memoir by Frank McCourt (bergs47)
  3. 30
    Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (Othemts)
  4. 10
    The Empty Family: Stories by Colm Tóibín (Christy.)
  5. 10
    Lucy Gayheart by Willa Cather (pacocillero)
  6. 10
    Someone by Alice McDermott (Ciruelo)
  7. 00
    The Walk Home by Rachel Seiffert (charl08)
  8. 11
    The Walking People by Mary Beth Keane (JGoto)
    JGoto: Irish immigrants with emphasis on family, but the story is more complex.
  9. 00
    Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan (DubaiReader)
  10. 00
    Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok (jayne_charles)
  11. 01
    Heaven and Hell by Jón Kalman Stefánsson (anglemark)
    anglemark: There's something about the laconic prose and the description of a young person's plight that made me associate these two books with each other.
  12. 01
    Lila by Marilynne Robinson (charl08)
    charl08: In both novels, key character faces new, difficult choices in new places. Both beautifully written, compelling.

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English (219)  Spanish (3)  Finnish (2)  Catalan (2)  Swedish (1)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  French (1)  Norwegian (1)  All (231)
Showing 1-5 of 219 (next | show all)
It took me a while to get around to Colm Tóbín’s 2009 novel Brooklyn, a book I only learned of after having first become aware of the 2016 movie based upon it. After noticing that the movie screenplay had been written by Nick Hornby, a writer whose worked I’ve consistently enjoyed over the years, I realized that it might be fun to read the novel and then watch the movie in order to determine what aspects of the novel’s plot Hornby had changed for the film. That, at least, was my plan. But as it happened, I ended up watching the movie just before I read the last fifty pages of Tóbín’s book – and I’m glad I did it that way because I easily spotted a couple of changes made by Hornby that were more satisfying than the book’s plot. Overall, however, as almost happens to me, I prefer the book to the movie – but highly recommend both, in this case. (And I learned to correctly pronounce “Eilis,” the main character’s first name.)

World War II is over but times in small-town Ireland are still tough, especially for young men and women searching for work. Because her three brothers have already moved to England to take jobs there, Eilis Lacey, the youngest of five children, now lives at home with only her sister and widowed mother. Rose Lacey has a real mind for numbers and has succeeded in finding a coveted office job for herself where she is both loved and respected for the quality of her work. The best that Eilis has been able to come up with, however, is a part-job clerking in the tiny general store belonging to one of the most unlikable human beings walking the face of the earth, Miss Kelly. And that’s about the time that an Irish immigrant priest visiting from his parish in Brooklyn comes calling upon the Lacey household with an offer to sponsor Eilis for the purposes of her permanent immigration to the U.S., including even a department store job that he can pretty much already guarantee her.

Almost before she knows it, Eilis (who gets the distinct impression that her mother and sister both believe this is the best chance at a good life Eilis will ever get) is on a ten-day voyage to New York. And, although in this case the old saying that “getting there is half the fun” does not even begin to apply, when Eilis arrives in Brooklyn she learns that everything Father Flood promised her is ready and waiting.

Thus begins the big adventure that will be the rest of Eilis Lacey’s life. Because she knows no one in New York other than the good Father Flood, Elis will have to adjust to her new life with little help from anyone, including her prudish and standoffish landlady and the five women she shares her meals with every day. Eilis finds her life in America as very different, if not necessarily better, than the one she left behind in Ireland. And then things get complicated: she meets and slowly falls in love with Tony at a Sunday night church dance – complicated because Tony is Italian, not Irish, a fact that neither his family or her friends will easily accept.

Bottom Line: Brooklyn is a memorable novel about the immigrant experience and those brave enough to undertake it. Tóibín has filled it with striking characters, a few perhaps a bit on the stereotypical side, that give the novel the feel of a much longer family saga. All in all, I rate this a 4-star book, about one-half a star more than I award to its movie version, beautifully filmed as that may be. ( )
  SamSattler | Feb 20, 2017 |
I finished this yesterday and had to let it marinate for a while before I could rate it. Not a feel-good book and the writing style is spare (quite deliberate I think) but I turned the last page last night and I can't stop thinking about it, especially after discussing the book with a friend whose mother is an immigrant and who also had to leave her parents and country at a young age to start a new life in the U.S. I was tempted to be a little hard on Eiliss until I thought about how very young she was, alone in a strange country and expected to adapt and assimilate with very little support and no sympathy for "weakness" (such as homesickness). Hard to imagine in our "bare it all and let it all out" culture. This novel would be an excellent choice for book clubs. ( )
  janb37 | Feb 13, 2017 |
Lovely story set in both Ireland and Brooklyn New York, of a young Eilis’ aspirations to become a bookkeeper so she can have a nice office job and support herself. The dialogue is clear and true, the characters are charming, and the plot, while slow and steady, draws the reader to an ending that is not resolved until the very end. I found myself almost holding my breath until I knew what choices Eilis’ would make about her future. Highly recommended. ( )
  tututhefirst | Jan 27, 2017 |
I'm giving this one 4 1/2 stars. I truly enjoyed reading Eilis' story in both Ireland and New York. I was frustrated at times with the storyline and not sure how I feel about the ending yet. I do know that the last 15 pages felt rushed which is probably why not a full 5 stars for me.

One sure sign that I was enjoying reading it.....it took me about 150 pages to realize there weren't any chapters, just 4 sections. ( )
  lynnski723 | Dec 31, 2016 |
I liked this very much - the way it was both incredibly detailed and yet seemed to exist in a kind of far away long ago. I also liked that Eilis wasn't particularly likable and found myself wondering if she would grow up to be any of the other female characters in the novel who were almost pathologically passive-aggressive - her mothers, Mrs Kehoe, the woman who owns the grocery store who gives her her very first job.

And yes, there's something very Jamesian about this - all that unexpressed longing and compartmentalized emotions. Very satisfying.

It also led me to look up a beautiful song - The Twisting of the Rope, which Eilis hears at the first dance she attends. ( )
1 vote laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 219 (next | show all)
Ultimately, Brooklyn does not feel limited. Tóibín makes a single incision, but it’s extraordinarily well-placed and strikes against countless nerve-ends. The novel is a compassionate reminder that a city must be made of people before it can be made of myths.
In tracking the experience, at the remove of half a century, of a girl as unsophisticated and simple as Eilis — a girl who permits herself no extremes of temperament, who accords herself no right to self-assertion — Toibin exercises sustained subtlety and touching respect. . .

In “Brooklyn,” Colm Toibin quietly, modestly shows how place can assert itself, enfolding the visitor, staking its claim.
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Eilis Lacey, sitting at the window of the upstairs living room in the house on Friary Street, noticed her sister walking briskly from work.
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Book description
Brooklyn, is set in Brooklyn and Ireland in the early 1950s, when one young woman crosses the ocean to make a new life for herself.

Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the years following World War Two. Though skilled at bookkeeping, she cannot find a job in the miserable Irish economy. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America -- to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood "just like Ireland" -- she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind.

Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, a blond Italian from a big family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. He takes Eilis to Coney Island and Ebbets Field, and home to dinner in the two-room apartment he shares with his brothers and parents. He talks of having children who are Dodgers fans. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love with Tony, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.
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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.

(summary from another edition)

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