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3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  56,571 Ratings  ·  7,576 Reviews
Hauntingly beautiful and heartbreaking, Colm Tóibín's sixth novel, 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.
ebook, 272 pages
Published May 5th 2009 by Scribner (first published 2009)
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Patrick Yes, a twelve-year-old could read this. When he or she gets to the benign sexual scenes, talk to him or her about it. It's hardly something that…moreYes, a twelve-year-old could read this. When he or she gets to the benign sexual scenes, talk to him or her about it. It's hardly something that should be hidden or banned.(less)
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Jan 03, 2010 Angela rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irish
It's hard to read anything about books without hearing gushing praise for Brooklyn, so I settled in for a brilliant work about immigration and America and New York and alienation and crushing hard work and etc. Brooklyn, though, is no The Jungle or Call It Sleep. Set partially in 1950-ish Ireland and partly in Brooklyn, the novel follows spineless and benign Eilis through her voyage to the United States (arranged by her sister and a kind priest), where she receives a job, is enrolled some classe ...more
Dec 29, 2015 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brooklyn starts out as a nice little slice of life in Ireland in the early 50’s. Then Eilis, the younger of two sisters living at home with their mother, has a whole new life arranged for her in New York. It took rather a stiff upper lip for a young woman to cross the stormy seas and settle in a foreign land where the only person she knew was the priest who arranged the whole thing. Sea sickness gave way to homesickness, but her strength of character prevailed. The story then settled into how sh ...more
Image source (work by Anthony Gormley):

This is a charming, simple story about a sweet, straightforward young woman – until the final section, when it sears the reader’s heart and soars into another realm.

The first part is a delightful picture of small-town Ireland in the 1950s. The middle two parts chart Eilis’ arrival and settling in to life and study in Brooklyn. Not much happens. It’s well done, but I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. Then she i
Glenn Sumi
Mar 22, 2016 Glenn Sumi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A simple but universal coming-of-age story, beautifully and gracefully told

Usually I read the book before seeing the movie, but in this case I saw the movie first. I screened the lovely film back in August when I wrote a cover story on Brooklyn’s star, Saoirse Ronan, for my paper’s coverage of the Toronto Film Festival. I only now caught up with the novel. I’m so glad I did. It really made me appreciate Nick Hornby’s adaptation.

In 1950s small town Ireland, Eilis Lacey has few prospects in life;
2.5 Stars I'm sorry to say BROOKLYN was a disappointing read for me.

It was slow going throughout most of the story with a kind of monotone dialogue, and while I did find Eilis's initial trip from Ireland to America kind of fun and interesting, her life while in America was day-after-day of repetitive boredom for the reader. (at least for me)

As for Eilis herself, at first I thought she showed strength of character and heart, but by the end of the story, well.....I admit to hoping for her demise!

Will Byrnes
Nov 11, 2015 Will Byrnes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brooklyn
Brooklyn is a wonderful character portrait and captures as well the struggle of an Irish immigrant to the US in the post war world. Eilis Lacy is a twenty-something in a small Irish town, frustrated at the sclerotic nature of her environment. Her life lies ahead of her in a single, entirely predictable line and she feels suffocated. She wants to study, to learn accountancy, or at least bookkeeping, so she can rise a little above her lowly economic situation. Seizing an unexpected opportunity she ...more
E Sweetman
Jun 01, 2010 E Sweetman rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no, I don't think I can
Recommended to E by: I read it because I loved "The Master" so completely was a quick read...
I expected far more and only in minute passage did I find it.
Mr. Toibin's BROOKLYN felt rushed, a bit glossed over, too formulaic for me to honestly believe the character of Eilis Lacey (and the name bothered me as much as her lack of substance).
There were small moments of brilliance: the terse passages of what was not said, which was the most telling, yet those glimmers were rare.
I could not identify in the least with Eilis, she was so one-dimensional, barely the
Peggy L
Jan 17, 2011 Peggy L rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Although I vacilated between sympathizing with the main character and wondering at her thought processes, in the end, I was disappointed in her behavior, choices and the ending of this book.
Oh, what a lovely novel this is. It is the story of Eilis, a young woman from small-town Ireland who moves to America in the 1950s and finds herself all alone in the strange city of Brooklyn.

If you have seen the movie version, a beautiful film starring Saoirse Ronan, you know the basic outline of the plot: Eilis rents a room in Brooklyn and finds a job in a shop. She becomes so homesick that she makes herself ill. She starts taking night classes, and later meets a nice boy at a dance. Eventuall
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Mar 11, 2014 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Irish author
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Will Byrnes
Quick and easy read. A coming of age story about an Irish working-class girl who immigrates all alone to Brooklyn. Simple sums it up. The protagonist, the prose, the setting, the story, right down to the 50’s era, a simpler time. Not to be confused with easy, never that. Thought Colm’s depiction of Eilis Lacey’s feelings of alienation "the rest of her life would be a struggle with the unfamiliar" & battle with depression "all of the colour had been washed out of her world" well done.
As for
Aug 05, 2009 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2009
OK, Man Booker award people, listen up! If this book doesn't win this year, you are dead to me, you hear?

I've said it elsewhere on this site, but it bears repeating. Colm Toibin is a genius. This is a man who has, on various occasions brought me inside the heads of:

• a gay man in Ireland suffering from AIDS and the women in his family ("The Blackwater Lightship")
• a compromised Argentine English teacher exploring his sexuality in the time of the fall of the military junta (“The Story of the nigh
Nov 14, 2015 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Julie by: The Seattle Times
Thinking again about this lovely book, nearly seven years after I first read it, how it has stayed with me, how Tóibín has moved and influenced me as a reader and a writer.

Original Review, posted June 7, 2009

This gentle, quietly resonant novel showed me a new side of Colm Tóibín's writing. At first blush it seems a simple coming-of-age story of a young Irish immigrant alone in New York. But Tóibín, though he writes with affection, keeps enough distance from his characters to allow his reader to
3.5/5 stars

Well, you're about to enter the land of the free and the brave
Wear your coat over your arm and look as though you know where you're going
Don't look too innocent
Try not to look so frightened
The only thing they can stop you for is if they think you have TB, so don't cough whatever you do
Brooklyn changes every day
New people arrive and they could be Jewish or Irish or Polish or even coloured.

Set in the 1950's, in a time after the second world war, this relates the story of Eilis La
Lucy Canessa
Dec 18, 2009 Lucy Canessa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was hugely dissapointed in this book. reviewer "Flibertigibbit" says it best, so I am just going to quote her here:

Brooklyn is flat and dull. This, incidentally, has little to do with Toibin's famously economical prose style - which I love. The principal problem is with characterisation. The characters are cardboard cut-out, lacking in complexity, unrealised and utterly unconvincing. The central character is so passive that it is scarcely believable and she simply can not sustain my
It was not the most compelling or riveting book I have ever read, yet the gentle tone surrounding the story of an Irish girl settling all alone in America, with just a priest as her only contact with home, was deeply touching.

Compared to Frank McCourt's approach, this novel took the sting out of poverty and hardship and tinted the life of a young girl leaving home in the Fifties for a foreign country, with sanguine, roseate hues. The realism of her life in transition, and her efforts to adjust
This was a book club pick, so not something I would have selected myself, and I endeavor to fail on the side of generosity when it comes to authors whose works I read without any personal investment.

That said, I don't get the enthusiasm some have for this novel. I kept expecting it to turn into more - more depth, more conflict, more despair or happiness or excitement or loneliness, or struggle. It didn't. It glanced at racial issues in the 1950's for a few pages, leading me to think we might get
Eilis lives in a small Irish village in the early 1950s with her sister and widowed mother. At about twenty years old, she is unsophisticated and had never been away from home. There are few job prospects--or marital prospects--in the village so her mother and sister give Eilis an opportunity to immigrate to America. Eilis had no great desire to leave Ireland, and she just accepts other people planning her life. She comes from a family that is placid on the surface, with little discussion of the ...more
Jun 23, 2016 Darwin8u rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
“She felt almost guilty that she had handed some of her grief to him, and then she felt close to him for his willingness to take it and hold it, in all its rawness, all its dark confusion.”
― Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn


Sometimes you read a book because you want to be overloaded. You want a prose whirlwind. You want maximalism and fractals and endnotes and echoes. You want to feel lost and found, buried and redeemed. This isn't that book. This is the book you read because you want serenity, peace, and
Jennifer (aka EM)
Oct 18, 2011 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful story, a careful, slow build of character. Impeccable writing - spare, intense, precise. Deceptively simple at the sentence level; yet so perfectly matched to the character Toibin is creating and the story he is telling. This writing is stunning in its simplicity and its power.

Eilis is a wonderful protagonist, whose inner conflicts are shown through her experiences. At the same time, Toibin takes us into her head and lets us see how she works through major decision points. And it's t
Emer (ALittleHaze)
Brooklyn tells the tale of a young Irish girl named Eilis who, unable to find suitable work, leaves her home behind her for the opportunities that America, and in particular Brooklyn, has to offer.
“She was nobody here. It was not just that she had no friends and family; it was rather that she was a ghost in this room, in the streets on the way to work, on the shop floor. Nothing meant anything. The rooms in the house on Friary Street belonged to her, she thought; when she moved in them she was
Gerard M.
Apr 12, 2012 Gerard M. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This book delights at many levels. For one who grew up in the south east of Ireland in the 1950-60s it transported me back to many familiar sights, sounds, smells and moments – with uncanny accuracy. The delectation is in the detail and Colm Tóibín, a native of Enniscorthy where the book is partly set, has his details spot on. Mrs Kelly’s shop, the Sunday night dance, early Mass, the Courtown Hotel, Curracloe and Ballyconnigar strand all evoke vivid memories. The petty snobbery, importance of ap ...more
Violet wells
Zoe Heller said Brooklyn was the most compelling and moving portrait of a young woman she has read in a long time and though I’d give that accolade to the narrator of A Girl is a Half Formed Thing there is much that’s moving and compelling in this novel. In fact it’s hard to fault except perhaps to say that it’s composed on a small canvas and so lacks the breadth of a truly thrilling and first rate novel. Basically it’s a concise and artful study of the sensibility of a young girl who suddenly f ...more
May 10, 2016 Myrna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
Quick read and better than I thought. I'm a sucker for an immigrant story but like many others, hated the ending. 3.5s! ...more
Diane Barnes
Feb 26, 2016 Diane Barnes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. It follows a young girl from Ireland to America in the 1950's, her friends at her rooming house, her job in a department store, her night classes to improve herself and get a better job, and eventually, slowly, falling in love. It's an interior action novel, all of it taking place inside Eilis' head, and we see her thoughts and indecision slowly forming a more confident view of the world, until, after a visit home because of a death in her family, she comes to know what she re ...more
Dec 03, 2013 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The premise of "Brooklyn" is not new; however, it"feels" new in Colm Toibin's capable, talented hands. I found the novel highly engaging, beautifully written, and absolutely delightful.

"Brooklyn" tells the story of Eilis Lacey, an Irish girl from a small village who emigrates to the U.S. with hopes of bettering her life and career with opportunities afforded in the new world. The young emigre's story is told with such straightforwardness and simplicity that, on the surface, it seems like a mora
For anyone that's ever had to move away from home, especially to another country, you know how traumatic that can be. That's what 21 year old Eilis Lacey had to do in 1951, when she left her home in Enniscorthy Ireland, to come to Brooklyn New York. That's the premise of the story, Eilis struggle to adapt, the homesickness she has for family and country, and the heartbreaking choices that fate forces her to make. Colm Toibin's writing is beautiful, and he tells this story in a subdued and unders ...more
Sweet and.... forgettable.
Наталия Янева
„Бруклин“ е меланхолична живо(то)пис, изрисувана с фина четка и пастелни тонове. „Бруклин“ е и история за разклоненията по пътя – непредвидените, защото животът на всекиго е осеян с тях. И защото никога не знаеш кога точно ще свърши пътят.

Кротост лъха от този роман, спокойствие, приемане на обратите на живота. Не примирение, просто осъзнаване. Да, има я стихийната носталгия по дома в един момент, има ги колебанията, но и онази сдържана устойчивост на характера, която ти шепне да продължиш и ще в
Mar 08, 2016 Jeanette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Easy read with depth of character. Those two elements rarely fit as well as they did in this small volume.

This is way, way too close to home for me to be impartial. I most probably will view it to other aspects and with other "eyes" than the average reader. I'm sure of that. This is a period when I was at the urban neighborhood "end" myself, although not in Brooklyn. And I was probably about ten years younger than Eilis during this period. Also not in rooming houses, but in familial associations
Diane S ☔
2.5 I expected much more from this story than what I received. Don't get me wrong, it was okay, but that is all it was. A rather bland story about an Irish girl who comes to New York under the sponsorship of the local Irish priest, stays in a rooming house with other women, goes to dances, meets a boy,yada yada yada. There is no depth, Eilis is a bit of a pushover, some of the characters were okay but none of them had any real strength to them. They come, they go, they are in and then out. Brief ...more
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Colm Toibin was born in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford in 1955. He studied at University College Dublin and lived in Barcelona between 1975 and 1978. Out of his experience in Barcelona be produced two books, the novel ‘The South’ (shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award and winner of the Irish Times/ Aer Lingus First Fiction Award) and ‘Homage to Barcelona’, both published in 1990. When he retur ...more
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“She has gone back to Brooklyn,' her mother would say. And, as the train rolled past Macmire Bridge on its way towards Wexford, Eilis imagined the years already when these words would come to mean less and less to the man who heard them and would come to mean more and more to herself. She almost smiled at the thought of it, then closed her eyes and tried to imagine nothing more.” 24 likes
“Some people are nice and if you talk to them properly, they can be even nicer." -Rose” 23 likes
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