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Brooklyn Paperback – 4 Mar 2010

3.8 out of 5 stars 644 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Reprint edition (4 Mar. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141041749
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141041742
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (644 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 130,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


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)

About the Author

Colm Tóibín was born in Enniscorthy in 1955. He is the author of eight novels including Blackwater Lightship, The Master and The Testament of Mary, all three of which were nominated for the Booker Prize, with The Master also winning the IMPAC Award, and Brooklyn, which won the Costa Novel Award. He has also published two collections of stories and many works of non-fiction. His most recent novel is Nora Webster. He lives in Dublin.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Evocative, sparse, yet deeply emotional, the books of Colm Toibin have become some of my favourites. He writes beautifully about landscape, about the weight of the past on the present, but most importantly about people and their feelings. He is particularly good at showing family relationships and how they work.

This new book was no disappointment. in the 1950s, Eilis Lacey moves from small-town Ireland to America to work in a department store. In Brooklyn, everything is different: you can even keep the heating on at night, she writes home, with excitement. Her culture shock on arrival is so beautifully written, you feel every moment of her disorientation and terrible homesickness.

But then just as she seems finally to be settling in America, she suddenly must return home, and the gap between her two lives is revealed. Anyone who has ever had an intense experience abroad, then returned home thinking 'it seems like a dream now' must identify with Eilis. It's so delicately done, but with enormous power.

I would love to know what others thought of the ending, as that was my only reservation, but I will not discuss it here as I hate plot spoilers. Please do read this book, it's quiet, old-fashioned and brilliant.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Eilis Lacey is a young woman growing up in small town Ireland in the 1950s. After the death of her father, she lives with her mother and older sister and is treated as the baby of the family, living in the shadow of her more confident sister. They're not desperate but money is tight - Eilis has no job in a stagnant economy. When an opportunity presents itself for Eilis to move to Brooklyn, her mother and sister quickly decide she should take it.

The novel charts her uncomfortable journey there, her arrival in a strange and busy land and subsequent homesickness. We are shown a curious mix of the familiar (a boarding house full of fellow Irish emigrants with old fashioned attitudes) and the unfamiliar (different races, Italians, exotic fashions, liberal attitudes and extreme weather), creating the image that although thousands of miles from home, some things are constant and the world is a curiously small place - a theme which becomes relevant later in the book.

In time, Eilis thrives in Brooklyn - quickly building a good reputation at work, enrolling in college, passing exams with flying colours and getting a boyfriend. Finally allowed freedom, she begins to gain confidence and independence, and we see her personality develop.

After 18 months in Brooklyn, a tragedy sends her back to Ireland - a place which now seems a bit alien. Although her family and friends see a change in her, her independence is not yet fully fledged and it starts to be eroded - once again she appears to lose control of her own destiny. Her time in Brooklyn begins to feel like a strange dream that she can't share with anyone.
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Format: Hardcover
This book came to me highly recommended by a couple of people, so I was looking forward to reading it to see what all the fuss was about and I had not read anything by Colm Toibin before either so I was doubly curious.

I was not exactly disappointed by the book, indeed I enjoyed reading it very much, but I would say I was underwhelmed by it.
It is quite a simple and straight forward story about the experiences of a young woman who emigrates from Ireland in the 1950's to Brooklyn in New York. It is an experience shared by thousands, if not millions of Irish people over the years so there is a lot to relate to here for many people, including myself, especially for those from the generation of the main character Eilis. The story likewise is quite simply told, it is not showily overwritten but is instead rather understated and for me this was the major plus point of the book. I would imagine it captures very well and nostalgically the atmosphere of that time for people of a certain age, women especially. Toibin is quite skilled at drawing female characters, especially the girls that Eilis shares a boarding house with in Brooklyn, and when Eilis returns to Ireland after being in Brooklyn for a couple of years he captures very well the conflicting feelings inside of her at being home after being away, something many an emmigrant can sympathise with.

That said I do have to say this wasn't quite the 'outstanding' novel I was expecting. Very competent and controlled, yes, but it didn't blow me away like I was lead to believe. I actually found the character of Eilis quite irritating after a while.
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Format: Hardcover
Brooklyn follows a young woman named Eilis as she travels from her Irish home town to New York in the early 1950s. Almost without asking, her family decides that she should move to America because she is more likely to find a good job there. Eilis struggles to adjust at first, but eventually finds her way and settles down beginning a romance with an Italian-American named Tony. Eilis brushes against social issues such as the Italian neighbourhoods versus the Irish neighbourhoods in NYC, the gradual integration of African Americans into white society, her female supervisor's latent lesbianism and her Jewish night school teacher who escaped the WWII concentration camps. But she never experiences any great conflict with these issues. Toibin manages to do something very special in this humble, quiet novel. There isn't a great deal of action. The language the author uses is engaging but simple. The characters are interesting but not extraordinary. What the author does is immerse you totally in Eilis' daily life and the small but important decisions she makes along the way which lead up to a devastatingly brilliant ending where the protagonist must make a serious heartrending choice. The lead up to this final section is very subtle so it took me by surprise and completely engrossed me.

What Toibin does so well is describe Eilis' relationships with those closest to her. He conveys how deep bonds can exist between family members even if nothing is said. The love and responsibility these characters feel for each other is expressed through small actions like writing each other letters about superficial things or sorting through old clothes together. He approaches scenes filled with a tremendous emotional intensity with a very light touch so that you almost don't realist the importance of what's happening until it's over. This is when Eilis' superficially simple life takes on a magnitude of importance.
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