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3.44  ·  Rating Details  ·  482 Ratings  ·  103 Reviews
"Brookland is the story of a determined and intelligent woman in eighteenth-century Brooklyn who is consumed by a vision of a bridge, a gargantuan construction of timber and masonry she devises to cross the East River in a single magnificent span." Since her girlhood, Prudence Winship has looked across the tidal straits from her home in Brooklyn to Manhattan and yearned to ...more
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published February 21st 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2006)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,100)
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Chris Johnson
Feb 07, 2008 Chris Johnson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The story of a woman who designs then has built a bridge over the East River from Brooklyn to Manhattan in 1800, about 100 years before the actual Brooklyn Bridge was built.

This is amazingly well written, and basically a study of small-town people interacting among themselves and reluctantly with the larger society they live in. (Brooklyn at this time was a village of a few hundred, and Manhattan itself was in the tens of thousands.)

The way the main characters are described and brought to life i
Sep 28, 2007 Liz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i loved this book ... brooklyn heights in the late 1700's. i read it nine months ago or so & i still think about it. emily barton wove so tight and deep a story ... i'm not sure i've ever read something before where i have stepped back and been totally in awe of the writer's endurance ... wondered what fortitude and discipline she had to call upon in order to let this story come forth ... i cannot look at the cobblestone streets of brooklyn heights & dumbo or the expanse of water that st ...more
May 03, 2009 Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am completely in love with this unusual, challenging, soothing book. I want to recommend it for so many reasons - as a parameter-defying example of what historical fiction should aspire to be; for all the lovely New York moments; as a blanket rebuke to all the hipsters; for being the only American history-related anything I've liked since, um, the American Girl books - but it really all comes down to Prudence Winship. I submit that this is the most remarkable portrayal of the tortured paths th ...more
Apr 26, 2007 Julia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Brooklyn-ites
As a (kind of) writer of historical fiction with female main characters, I was excited to read about Prue Winship's foray into bridge-building and to see what Brooklyn was like over two centuries ago.

Instead, it made me nervous that my historical fiction was as trite, long-winded and BORING as this novel. Prue and her two sisters were very unlikeable, as much as Barton tried to make us sympathize with them. Prue's childhood curse on her sister was not a strong enough theme to keep the near-500 p
Feb 17, 2013 Dolanite rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was exceptional. I thought at first the language used in this historical fiction would throw me off, but it was so well written as to transport me to a time in history that I don't usually enjoy. Through Barton's writing I see this whole era anew. She told the story of such vivid characters who felt so deeply that it made the book both compelling and delightful. I'm not 100% sold on the devise of the letters used to tell this tale at the start especially, but by the end the twists and turns ...more
Elizabeth Urello
I was so torn on this book. It's interesting and unique - Barton creates a really solid world, and it's a historical novel but about something that didn't happen and that's entirely improbable, but is told so convincingly that I had to Google it to see if something like it happened (it didn't). But on the other hand, Barton has this really weird way of drawing a lot of attention to certain minor details that don't turn out to be important. She does this in a minor way in pretty much every paragr ...more
Apr 02, 2015 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At 500 pages I know this book isn't for everyone but I loved it. It's a fictional account of the attempt to build The Brooklyn (Brookland) Bridge in the late 1700's. The descriptions of New York in the years following The Revolutionary War are terrific. People still speak Dutch, there are balladeers delivering the news and the tavern is the center of the town. The Winship family runs a gin distillery and Matthias Winship has no sons to help him with the business. As a result, his oldest daughter ...more
Decent historical fiction truly conveying a sense of the place and time, but Barton gets too bogged down in gin making and bridge building. The story also requires much suspension of disbelief about what the main character was capable of doing.
May 14, 2014 Alice rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good story. Fascinating to read about Brooklyn in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. For those of us who know New York City, and particularly Brooklyn, the details of what small-town life there was like are fascinating. Though there are details of bridge-building that sometime are for me too many the story is really about family: three sisters devoted to each other and to the family business. One sister, the book's main character, is harboring a secret (and accompanying guilt) that pervad ...more
Alex Myers
It felt as though the author never got her arms around this story - it was too big. Details of distilling and bridge building were nuanced, not too technical, and offered verisimilitude. However, this attention to detail seemed to sap the author's ability to portray and sustain other storylines. The main character, Prue, just didn't seem plausible to me, particularly in her interactions with her sisters. Events happened abruptly, like the death of both parents, (because they "needed" to) or drag ...more
Sarah Lawrence
Brookland is one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It brings a new meaning to the term “historical fiction,” not just presenting us with a fictional account of historic events, but also giving us an original fictional event in a historic setting.

In the years around and after the American Revolution and in the first few decades of the new United States, a remarkable family lives in early Brooklyn, across the water from the island of Manhattan. The title’s use of a variant of the
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jun 20, 2011 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No One
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List
The author has rave reviews from the likes of Thomas Pynchon, so I expected something special. This just never grabbed me though, and given the basic plot it should have. I love historical fiction and as a native New Yorker I love books about my city. I haven't seen many novels set in the New York City during and right after the Revolutionary War--a period when slavery was still legal in the state and much of Brooklyn, Queens--even Manhattan--were still forest and farms.

The book is also centere
Sep 08, 2010 Jess rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dave Clark
Aug 18, 2012 Dave Clark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
The author presented Prue as a very strong women, but she did make her an admirable character. Prue's independent spirit and single-mindedness are positive characteristics in the beginning, however as the book progresses the author paints her as more and more of a BITCH. By the close of the book Prue is reduced to pleading for forgiveness from her married daughter who is living a life in a more traditional gender role. Prue seeks this forgiveness from her daughter to assuage her guilt of being a ...more
Sep 12, 2007 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brookland is a historical novel about the building of the Brooklyn bridge. It was the idea of a woman who owned a gin distillery in Brooklyn (Brookland at that time) and wanted an easier way to ship her gin into New York. The book is more about family relationships than the building of the bridge. The sections about distilling gin are fascinating, but the story drags in several places, and I found myself skimming. When she learns her mother is pregnant, 5 year old Prudence (the main character) " ...more
Emi Bevacqua
Jun 28, 2013 Emi Bevacqua rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Emily Barton is a great writer, her descriptions of 18th century Brooklyn and the resident Winships who run a gin distillery, are vivid and authentic (although I doubt New Yorkers in 1798 were referring to things as "weird" or "stupid"). The Winship family is interesting, however dour: Matthias and Roxana are the tragic parents of Prudence who takes over the family business (and dreams of one day building a bridge to span the East River to Mannahata), the ironically-named Temperance, and little ...more
Sep 27, 2009 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an immersive novel, historical fiction, which gently enveloped you in the world of late eighteenth-century Brooklyn, NY.
(I'll try to avoid major plot spoilers but, if you hate knowing anything in advance, don't read this.)
The main character, Prudence, inherits a gin distillery from her father (who, once he got over his disappointment in having no sons, trains her in how to 'rectify' and make gin as if she were his eldest son.) She has a butch sister, Temperance, and a youngest sister,
Marilee Steffen
This historical novel tells of 3 daughters of the Winship family who run their father's gin distillery. The girls are unconventional for their time (1770-1800) wearing men's breeches and doing men's work. The oldest daughter dreams of building a bridge from Brooklyn to New York and sets her dream in motion. Great details, a compelling story. It was a good slow summer read!
May 20, 2008 Katie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book took me a bit to get into, and at first was a bit of a let-down. I'd read a review in the Sunday paper when it was first released and was really excited to read it, having lived in NYC and Brooklyn Heights earlier in my young adulthood. It was not what I expected, but about halfway through it I found that the characters - especially the sisters in the book - had endeared themselves to me and I couldn't wait to see what was next in store for them. I loved how strong and confident Prue w ...more
Sep 17, 2008 purplechick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful book, especially if you live in Brooklyn. Ms. Barton brings all of the old names to life, Joralemon, Remsen, Boerum, Livingston, Nostrand, etc. Brookland is an alternative history of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. But it is much more than that. The author successfully creates the atmosphere of the tiny village of Brookland (Breukeland in Dutch) of the 18th and early 19th Centuries and delves deep into the family and community relationships that develop in such a small p ...more
Barbara VA
The Brooklyn Bridge is such an iconic New York sight is is hard to imagine the East River without it. This book is the story of daring 18th century woman who dreams of building a wooden structure across the river to Manhattan Island so she can easily transport her family's wares to customers and have easy access to clients and banks. Fascinating accounts of river traffic, freezes, search for raw materials and the basic engineering education necessary for testing and building. Equally important t ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

After the highly acclaimed The Testament of Yves Gundron (2000) comes an epic novel that captures the sights, smells, and visions of 18th-century Brooklyn. Told mostly through Prue's letters to her married daughter, Brookland imagines a world where personal drama, romance, family relationships, and tragedy play out against the construction of a fictional bridge. Barton possesses a rich imagination, and the heroic, prefeminist Prue captivated all critics. A few noted that Barton plays too loose a

Feb 06, 2008 Abigail rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Didn't finish this one, though it has more merit than many books I've left to the dust mites. It paints a very compelling portrait of post-colonial, post-revolution Brooklyn, NY, with some slightly fantastical elements thrown in which reminded me of Winter's Tale (Mark Helprin) -- there is a childhood curse, continued allusions to the "land of the dead", and three women in 18th century America who not only run a gin distillary but who also conspire to build the first every brige across the East ...more
Literary Mama
Literary Mama: Brookland tells the story of a family who runs a gin distillery in late 18th-century Brooklyn. Where did you get the idea for the novel, and how did you do your research?

Emily Barton: [The writer] Chris Adrian and I were walking by the Brooklyn Bridge, on the New York side, and he looked up at it, sighed, and said, "Oh, Emily, it's so beautiful. Will you write me a novel about it?" I said sure. That cannot have been a real request, and I'm sure he wouldn't have minded if I'd faile
Jan 04, 2012 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Christina Courtenay
parts of this book I really enjoyed, the time and location in history in which it takes place, the relationships central to the main character, and the main character's maturation throughout the story. However, there was quite a bit of focused detail regarding the manufacturing of gin and the dynamics of building a bridge & it was often at those points when Barton started to lose me. Overall a very good read but there were certain themes beyond my interest.
Ellice Plant
Jan 10, 2010 Ellice Plant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a treat for the new year. Everything about this book--that it is epistlary, that Prue is so vulnerable yet so successful, that her compatriots are the Remsens and Cortelyous and Schemerhorns, that she walked across the East River--felt like a special gift for me. Though I started to feel a bit of a drag during the conflict-less period after Ben takes control of the project, overall it was difficult to put down the book even at mealtimes. Upon finishing the book, I was tempted to find Barton ...more
Jun 28, 2012 Brandi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brookland is beautifully written, with strong detail and thought. You would have thought the author lived during the turn of the 19th century. She obviously did her research and was able to bring it convincingly into her story. I feel like I learned quite a bit from it. The ending was the only thing that felt lacking. I expected a major climax, something amazing for our main character - who we've been with her entire life, but it didn't come. I was left a little disappointed. But at the end of t ...more
Apr 16, 2008 Liz rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating story. Prue Winship takes over her father's gin distillery at a young age, and dreams of constructing a bridge across the East River connecting Brooklyn with Manhattan. Today, her level of ambition and involvement would be unusual; at the dawn of the 19th century, it's positively scandalous.

The narrative is engrossing, and I sympathized with all the characters, major and minor. No pure villains here. However, I didn't love the way things were tied up in the last quarter or so of the
Nov 18, 2007 Susan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I finished this book under duress. I'm a fan of historical novels and had high hopes for this one as I love anything New York. Though I was intrigued by the plot, a woman's passion and unwaivering determination to build a bridge - what we know as the Brooklyn bridge - ultimately Barton's descriptions of Brookland and it's history was the most interesting part of the book. The side plots were lame and could easily have been cut leaving an entirely interesting read. However, Barton is very long-wi ...more
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Constant Reader 26 6 Nov 29, 2007 12:59PM  
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Emily Barton has written three novels so far. Her first, THE TESTAMENT OF YVES GUNDRON, called "blessedly post-ironic, engaging, and heartfelt" by Thomas Pynchon, won the Bard Fiction Prize and was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. In reviewing BROOKLAND, Joan Acocella of "The New Yorker" wrote that Barton creates alternate worlds "out of Calvino or Borges." Barton's third novel, TH ...more
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