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3.65  ·  Rating details ·  77,081 Ratings  ·  9,490 Reviews
Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War Two. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America, she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind.

Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, who loves the Dodge
Paperback, 262 pages
Published March 2nd 2010 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…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)

Community Reviews

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Jan 03, 2010 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
Jim Fonseca
Dec 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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

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
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;
Bookdragon Sean
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, an
Apr 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
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!

Will Byrnes
Jun 16, 2010 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 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 16, 2011 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.
Jan 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
"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
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
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

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
Jul 05, 2009 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
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Lucy Canessa
Dec 17, 2009 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
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
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
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
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
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
Jennifer (aka EM)
Aug 08, 2010 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
It was the 1950s in Ireland and Eilis Lacey had lived at home with her sister Rose and their mother since their father died and Eilis’ brothers had moved to London for work. The family was poor; Rose was the only one who worked and when Eilis managed to find a job serving in the little corner shop on Sundays, they were pleased with the extra money. But one day when Father Flood arrived from his home in Brooklyn, USA, to catch up with his family, he also visited Eilis, Rose and their mother. The ...more
Gerard M.
Apr 12, 2012 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
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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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“Some people are nice and if you talk to them properly, they can be even nicer." -Rose” 38 likes
“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.” 36 likes
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