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Brooklyn Paperback – 4 Mar 2010
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With this elating and humane novel, Colm Tóibín has produced a masterwork (Sunday Times)
The most compelling and moving portrait of a young woman I have read in a long time (Zoë Heller Guardian, Books of the Year)
A work of such skill, understatement and sly jewelled merriment could haunt your life (Ali Smith TLS, Books of the Year)
Suffused with humane depth, funny, affecting, deftly plotted ... a novel of magnificent accomplishment (Peter Kemp Sunday Times, Novel of the Year)
Brooklyn moved me more than any other book this year (Nicholas Hytner Observer, Books of the Year)
A beautifully crafted work that transformed ordinary lives into something extraordinary (Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year)
No book this year gave me greater pleasure (Nell Freudenberger Financial Times)
Not a sentence or a thought out of place. It takes over as his finest ficiton to date (Irish Times)
Remarkable freshness and immediacy ... with a lovely comedic lightness (Daily Mail)
A lovely, thoughtful book ... alive with authentic detail, moved along by the ripples of affection and doubt that shape any life: a novel that offers the reader serious pleasure (Daily Telegraph)
Tremendously moving and powerful (New Statesman)
Full of sly fun, lovely comic observation and an almost tangible pleasure in storytelling (Observer)
Refreshingly authentic . . . Eilis is so vivid it's difficult to believe she did not actually exist (Financial Times)
From the Inside Flap
It is Ireland in the early 1950s and for Eilis Lacey, as for so many young Irish girls, opportunities are scarce. So when her sister arranges for her to emigrate to New York, Eilis knows she must go.
Arriving in a crowded lodging house in Brooklyn, Eilis can only be reminded of what she has sacrificed. And just as she takes tentative steps towards friendship, and perhaps something more, Eilis receives news which sends her back to Ireland. There she will be confronted by a terrible dilemma - a devastating choice between duty and one great love. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
The boarding house where Eilis lives is occupied by women only who appear to be separated into two groups. One group wants to go drinking at a bar before the dance and the other group are more formal and old fashioned. Eilis is caught between the two erring on the side of caution initially. This reflects the importance of reputation and appearance in fifties culture. There is a great emphasis on the difference in culture between the Irish and the Italians when Eilis arrives in America, yet they share a strong religious commitment in both communities. Italian food is different to the meals Eilis eats in the house where she lives, but not unpleasant. Tony’s family are very close knit and welcoming, whereas most of the Irish have emigrated leaving their families back home.
Eilis’s relationship with Tony is interesting, it appears to be something she drifts into rather than a conscious decision. Unfortunately this appears to be typical of Eilis’s character, submissive, passive and indecisive. For Tony on the other hand it is a permanent relationship leading to marriage. He insists that they get married in secret before she returns to Ireland following the death of her sister. This shows a marked insecurity and a need for possession and certainty. Tony has plans, a trade, land for a home and a business from which to support a family.
It is hard to determine what Eilis’s feelings and long term plans are, perhaps it is the author’s intention to leave them open to interpretation. She has the drive and commitment to continue with her studies, but seems to lack the passion for any relationship either with Tony or Jim. It is actually quite disturbing that she would even entertain starting a friendship / relationship with another man knowing she was married to Tony. She appears to enjoy the work she does in Ireland as a book-keeper and there is the suggestion that she would like a similar job in America. It may even be easier to work in 1950’s America than it would be in Ireland, with the British convention of a woman’s place is in the home and only married men should go out to work.
How enduring Tony and Eilis’s relationship would be we are not told. Tony is obviously prepared for sacrifice and has great plans to provide for the future. This suggests stability and endurance if not an epic love affair. It is unusual to see a modern novel with such a passive and submissive female character, typical of fifties Britain and perhaps it is a reminder that we need to take control of our lives, lest we be carried away by any wind of change.
The story is very atmospheric, both in the Irish and the American settings, and well describes the period. I found it a little slow to start but soon became drawn into Eilis’s life and loves. Several times I could have shaken her but this, to me, is good and believable writing. The ending, though, was a little abrupt and unsatisfying. I would have liked to know more of how her decision unfolded.
I hope the film does not disappoint.
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