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Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
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Brooklyn

by Colm Tóibín

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,8972531,934 (3.68)475
  1. 82
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    The Walk Home by Rachel Seiffert (charl08)
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    The Walking People by Mary Beth Keane (JGoto)
    JGoto: Irish immigrants with emphasis on family, but the story is more complex.
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    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.
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    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 (240)  Spanish (4)  Catalan (2)  Finnish (2)  Swedish (1)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  French (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (253)
Showing 1-5 of 240 (next | show all)
I had high expectations for this book. I was disappointed in it. I didn't think the lead character acted within the framework of her development and personality. At the end I was not sympathetic with the main character and I didn't think the story believable. It would have been believable if the leads personal character had been different but it just didn't seem to follow to me. ( )
  yhgail | Feb 20, 2019 |
I really enjoyed this novel about Eilis, who is pretty much pushed into emigrating to the US by her older sister, and who then just gets on with settling into her new life. ( )
  mari_reads | Feb 16, 2019 |
I wanted to love this. When I first started reading it, I thought I would.

Eilis lives with her mom and sister Rose in Ireland. One day, she is offered empowerment in New York. She's never even considered leaving before but she knows her family can't support her and she can't help support her mom. She feels that her sister has arranged the job offer in order to give Eilis a better life. Someone is going to have to stay and support their mom, Rose is 30 with a good job and Eilis is younger without a real income. She feels to Rose has come to the conclusion that one of them will never have their own life with a husband and family and that Rose has decided to let Eilis be free.

So Eilis sets aside her own sadness about leaving, seeing Rose's acts as selfless, and to try to make the best of her life in Brooklyn.
It first she is very sad, very homesick, but soon a kind priest has helped her line up night school.
She gets better at her job, improves her living quarters, meets a nice guy, and gets the education for the job she really wants.

But then something horrible happens at home in Ireland and Eilis has to go back. She has to decide what she really wants for herself.

Here's what I didn't love, Eilis is so passive that she pretty much doesn't make decisions for herself. At first I thought she was just being kind, trying not to upset anyone. Then I felt like everything that happened to her just happened to her. She barely made anything happen for herself and she barely made any decisions for herself.

We know, ultimately, that she has to decide between two lives and I really wanted a stronger resolution. I couldn't even tell if she was happy at the end. ( )
  Mishale1 | Dec 29, 2018 |
The best thing I can say about "Brooklyn" is that, merely by being set in the nineteen fifties, long after the surge of Irish immigration to the United States receded, it deftly avoids a lot of the clichés that plague novels that describe the Irish experience in America. Fittingly, perhaps, the book is also unsparingly unsentimental about what it means to emigrate. It provides extremely accurate descriptions of homesickness, of the awful fear and apprehension that often accompany partings that are likely to be permanent, and of the sense of being displaced -- in a place but not of it. Tóibín illustrates the suffocatingly strict social expectations of the small Irish town that Eilis leaves and the (rapidly dissolving) Irish-American community that is set to welcome her on the other side very well. The fact that she lived in a world so predictable that a young woman's being seen with a young man alone more than twice could set off rumors of an impending marriage, makes her moving to the United States by herself seem like an unimaginably risky venture, as it might well have been in those days. Watching Eilis, who finds herself in a boardinghouse under the too-watchful eye of a controlling, small-minded landlady, fight for every second of personal space and free time that her lonely new life will allow her is also pretty heartbreaking. While it probably doesn't mean to, "Brooklyn" makes the case that we don't have stereotype of the drunken Irishman because the Irish are inclined towards drink, but because the lives of Irish lives were often hard and solitary. In a world where air travel and the internet has made much of the world readily accessible to us, "Brooklyn" reminds you how hard moving away from a familiar place can be.

Having said all that, and noting that Tóibín is a careful, skilled, and economical writer, I can't really say I enjoyed "Brooklyn" all that much. The book's third-person narration doesn't have a whole lot of indirect in it, and while it's well-written and well constructed, this one is slower and more deliberate than it could have been. It constructs its characters well, but I can't say I ever felt them breathe. This may simply be due to my own preferences and tastes: perhaps readers who prefer nineteenth century literature will be able to sense the interiority that didn't really come through for me. Prospective readers should also be warned that "Brooklyn" is one of those novels, like, say, "Mrs. Dalloway", where nothing much happens. This isn't to say that life-altering decisions aren't taken or that Tóibín's characters don't grow or change, but the book's scope -- like its setting -- sometimes seems painfully constricted. I can't quite imagine how they managed to make a movie out of it. This is an admirable book in many ways, but it's really not my thing. It could be yours, though. ( )
1 vote TheAmpersand | Nov 30, 2018 |
Seemingly simple prose that draws you in very quickly. Delicate and honest. I haven't seen the movie adaptation of this book, and I don't think I want to since I don't think a commercial film adaptation could do it justice. ( )
  decaturmamaof2 | Nov 28, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 240 (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.

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