Brooklyn Paperback – 29 Apr 2009
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"A compelling characterization of a woman caught between two worlds... A fine and touching novel, persuasive proof of Toibin's ever-increasing skills and range." -- "Booklist" (starred review)
"A quiet masterpiece." -- "The Express" (U.K.)
"A classical coming-of-age story, pure, unsensationalized, quietly profound." -- Pam Houston, O, the Oprah Magazine
"A beautifully rendered portrait of Brooklyn and provincial Ireland in the 1950s... Toibin writes about women more convincingly, I think, than any other living, male novelist." -- Zoe Heller, author of The Believers
"[A] masterly tale... There is not a sentence or a thought out of place." -- Irish Times
"Colm Toibin leads a generation of Irish novelists... His generation's most gifted writer of love's complicated, contradictory power." -- Los Angeles Times
"Toibin's prose is as elegant in its simplicity as it is complex in the emotions it evokes." -- The New York Times Magazine
"A quiet masterpiece." -- The Express (U.K.)
"Reading Toibin is like watching an artist paint one small stroke after another until suddenly the finished picture emerges to shattering effect." -- The Times Literary Supplement (U.K.) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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.
Roller-coaster of emotions! "Brooklyn" the book rode me through bewilderment, to strong irritation, then over to acceptance and, in the end, powerful enjoyment. I was moved. As soon as I finished the book I ran to rent the film, that's how much I enjoyed it. Everything is so simple, good-hearted, nice. Brooklyn [DVD]  (the film) is such an easy and yet heartbreaking watch. Everything you expect, based on the book, but so pretty. Take scenes from the Irish coastline - magnificent!
And that Irish drawl!
To conclude: un-put-downable (I was surprised!). This coming of age tale touches all the important aspects: think about your actions, be prepared to account for what you did and your choices. Also: for a very long while I have not read a book which described love so simply, and yet was so moving. Oh the bittersweet broken hearts!
If you feeling sad and melancholy - recommended.
Four solid stars to both the book and the film.
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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