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3.68  ·  Rating details ·  100,912 ratings  ·  10,947 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. When
Hardcover, First Scribner hardcover edition May 2009, 262 pages
Published May 5th 2009 by Scribner (first published April 29th 2009)
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Autumn I realize I may be in the minority here, but I don't think Eilis ever really loved Jim. I think she liked him as a person, certainly, but what I think…moreI realize I may be in the minority here, but I don't think Eilis ever really loved Jim. I think she liked him as a person, certainly, but what I think she really loved was what he represented: a steady, familiar life in the town she grew up in. This struck me the most when she was attending her friend's wedding and thought that she "didn't love Tony now." What she was experiencing was a fun, cheerful event with all the people she'd known her whole life, and this is what she could have for herself if she stayed with Jim. But later on, when Miss Kelly pettily informs Eilis that she knows her secret, she's reminded of what else life with Jim will mean--living in a town where everyone knows who you are and what you've done, without any chances to start over. This is when a life with Tony in Brooklyn becomes more appealing, because now she's realized that she had adapted to life in a big city in a new country, and enjoyed her independence too much to forfeit it now. I certainly hope that she really does love Tony, but even if she doesn't then I imagine that she would grow to love him more with time.(less)
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 shoul…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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Average rating 3.68  · 
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 ·  100,912 ratings  ·  10,947 reviews

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Jan 03, 2010 rated it it was ok
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

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 is unexpectedly summoned home. The situation and dilemmas arising could be crass
Jim Fonseca
Dec 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: irish-authors
Assuming we have a reliable narrator, we can date this story by the newly-released movie she views - Singing in the Rain - so it’s 1952.

A young Irish woman emigrates to Brooklyn. Back in Ireland, she has three brothers all working in England and an older sister who will now stay home to take care of their aging mother. The older sister, who happens to be more attractive, athletic and ambitious, sacrifices her possibility of a normal married life for her younger sister. Our heroine chooses the US
Will Byrnes
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, sh ...more
Glenn Sumi
Aug 24, 2015 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;
Sean Barrs
Some books are worth sticking with.

To call this book a slow starter would be to evoke a drastic understatement. After around a hundred or so pages, I was beginning to wonder if this book was actually going anywhere. There was a completer lack of plot, as the mundane life of an ordinary girl unfolded in all its blandness. However, as the novel progressed it built up momentum, ever so slowly until the point where it became a heart racing crescendo of uncertainty. The true shame of this book,
Apr 21, 2010 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
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!

E Sweetman
Jun 01, 2010 rated it did not like it
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 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
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.
Jan 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Ordinary things, that she would never know, that would not matter to her now."

“Brooklyn” is a beautiful, simple book. It reminds me of the writing of Anton Chekov, just life happening. And in the hands of a skilled writer, that is enough to keep you reading. The novel moves quickly, although it covers a span of two years it is only 262 pages. Things happen, big things, without any fanfare, as they do for all of us, every day in real life.
The novel’s protagonist, Ellis Lacey, is so fully rendere
Jan 14, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lovely Bank Holiday read for St Patrick's weekend and a book where the past comes to life through fiction and yet for many Irish Immigrants this story paints a vivid picture of life in small towns in rural Ireland in the 50s and 60s, the ties to family and the pull of what is familiar and the duty we feel towards family.

I think this book means a lot to me on a personal level as it is very silimiar to my aunt's story and therefore as real as it gets for an immigrant's account and my aunt who
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Jul 28, 2012 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 Eili

When I finished this novel I felt as if I had just been uprooted. Something was tearing inside me.

No, don’t think it was because the novel mesmerized me. It was something else. Strange.

The first half of the novel was an amiable read, calm. Toibin’s clear and relaxed writing and bittersweet story opened horizons.

The story of a young woman, in the nineteen fifties, who has no other prospect in her small town in Ireland but to find, almost desperately, a suitable husband, emigrates alone, to the
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
Jul 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Lucy Canessa
Dec 17, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
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
Julie Christine
Apr 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Julie Christine 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
Lewis Weinstein
Many people loved this book, but it made me angry. A young Irish girl allows life to happen to her, never taking initiative. She makes a series of horrible decisions (maybe non-decisions is a better way to describe them) which cause pain to those who care for her or lie like unexploded bombs still waiting to be discovered when the story abruptly ends. She repeatedly displays a lack of awareness or concern for the feelings of others as she floats along her unfocused path. Toibin writes beautifull ...more
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 E
Feb 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommended to Chrissie by: Barbara H
This is a book about Eilis Lacey, a young woman who, searching for better job opportunities, moves from Enniscorthy, Ireland, not far from Dublin, to Brooklyn in NYC. It is the 1950s. The move has been arranged by Eilis’ elder sister by introducing her to a Catholic priest visiting from Brooklyn. Eilis is a hard worker and she has taken classes in bookkeeping. Father Flood, the visiting priest, speaks of the excellent job opportunities that were to be found in the States. He sponsors her. She tr ...more
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: current-lit-uk
This is my first Colm Toibin. I thought it would be a challenging read but I was wrong.... I sank right into the story from the start and it was beautifully written. It starts with Eilis growing up in 1950’s Ireland with her older sister, Rose. Her brothers had already moved to England to find employment.
The lack of prospects in small town Ireland is portrayed well.
When the family has a visit from an Irish American priest, things are quickly set in motion, paperwork, employment, accom
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
Richard (on hiatus)
I greatly enjoyed Brooklyn, which was a surprise!
I had picked up the impression, from somewhere, that a Colm Tóibín novel would be a dry, high concept, densely written affair. A book to be in the 'right' mood for.
This was not the case.
Brooklyn is a slim, elegantly written novel. The story is simple and character driven. Much of the plot concerns mundane and unsensational events but manages to be quietly gripping.
Eilis Lacey a young woman unable to find work in Ireland, travels to the United Sta
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I’d describe this as a quiet book. The author does a great job of entering into the mind of a young girl and I especially enjoyed his descriptions of her loneliness and romantic aspirations. I also really enjoyed the sharply observed period detail. Perhaps what was in those days a momentous upheaval – a young Irish girl travelling alone to find a new life in New York – is nowadays far less of a big deal which showed how much life has changed for young girls in the past half century. This was als ...more
Connie G
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
Sep 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
Brooklyn appears to be a book that is loved by many, and I have seen plenty of positive and somewhat sparkling reviews, but for me, when thinking of "Brooklyn" one word comes to mind; Underwhelming. I wasn't expecting gold or anything, but within this book, nothing significant actually never happens, and this made it a tedious, and an eye-rolling read.

At the start, when Eilis makes the journey from Ireland to Brooklyn, I'll admit, I was intrigued, and I was anticipating what she might find in he
Feb 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
Lorena and I went to see Colm in the middle of last year when he came to Melbourne. You’d think people from Ireland would make a point of coming over here at a time more likely to have nice weather, but I guess their national pride stops that sort of thing. “For God sake, you call this a winter, do you? I’ve lived through summers in Ireland that blah, blah, blah.”

(Although I went to listen to John Banville talking the year ‘The Untouchables’ came out – also in the heart of a Melbourne winter, wi
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Colm Tóibín FRSL, is an Irish novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, journalist, critic, and poet. Tóibín is currently Irene and Sidney B. Silverman Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University in Manhattan and succeeded Martin Amis as professor of creative writing at the University of Manchester.

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