Barbara's Reviews > Brooklyn

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
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's review
Aug 02, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: immigration

The subjects of immigration and maturation have been dealt with in a most compelling manner in this gentle, flowing novel by Colm Toibin. Eilis Lacey, in her late teens, has crossed the ocean alone from her small, close knit town in Ireland to a totally foreign world in Brooklyn. Toibin has deftly woven each experience in a realistic, sometimes heart rending manner. The descriptions of Eilis's homesickness are some of the most tender yet raw, sweet yet sad, completely evocative pages that I have read for some time. Each new place or event that she encounters is vividly portrayed.

Toibin has clearly developed his characters. One could almost hear the voices of Eilis's friends and family in her hometown in Ireland. It was often delightful to view the environment both there and in Brooklyn through her eyes. Yet the rush and bustle and crowding of the populace in Brooklyn were manifestly overwhelming to her and in sharp contrast to her prior life.

The narrative held a special appeal for me because of my role in tutoring immigrants in English. Toibin has effectively dealt with the problems which I view with my students in their attempts to fit into a new, stange society. The difficulties of learning new customs and behaviors, while adhering to memories of familiar things are often stumbling blocks.

I look forward to reading more by this perceptive author.

ADDENDUM:Today I viewed the film adaptation of this novel, presented by my cinema club which prescreens a series of movies for its subscribers. The film was excellent and quite compelling, but lacked many of the nuances that only Toibin could impart. I do recommend it for all.
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Reading Progress

August 2, 2010 – Shelved
Started Reading
March 25, 2011 – Shelved as: immigration
March 25, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-24 of 24) (24 new)

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message 1: by K.D. (new)

K.D. Absolutely Looks like my type of book, B. Thanks!

Barbara Thank you, KD!

Cynthia Excellent review. Makes me want to go out and get this book immediately.

Teresa Cynthia wrote: "Excellent review. Makes me want to go out and get this book immediately."

I don't know why I thought you had read this already, C. Yes, read it as soon as you can!

Cynthia I keep meaning to read it.....

message 6: by Teresa (last edited Mar 27, 2011 10:13AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Teresa Cynthia wrote: "I keep meaning to read it....."

I understand. No pressure! :)

Barbara Thanks, everybody for your "likes"!

C, I thought you had read it too. I think you would like it. Of course, no pressure from me also!!

Debby I have this and other books by him on my TBR shelf for a while. I'm very intrigued by your description of his writing style and character development. I'll be reading this book very soon!

message 9: by Sue (new) - added it

Sue I do plan to read it as one of my Irish books. I think I won't add it to my huge list quite yet!!!

Barbara Despite its depth, I found it to be a quick read.

message 11: by Sue (new) - added it

Sue that's good to know. thanks. Oops--I see I have added it. I went through my list last night and cut out some books but when I finished the list was only about 10 books shorter--not great.

Barbara I've noticed also that as soon as I pare down the list, I immediately add new ones!

message 13: by Sue (new) - added it

Sue I'm going to try to be a little harder as far as adding on --we'll see how that goes!!

Maria Yes, I enjoyed this very much.

message 15: by Chrissie (last edited Feb 04, 2018 10:17AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Chrissie Your review has helped me a lot. I will give this one a try. I think I might like it more than the others I have read by the author.

One thing that always confuses me about immigrant stories is the extent to which immigrants fail to feel excited bout learning of a new place and environment. THAT is what I felt when we moved to Sweden, even if the move was not just milk and honey.

Barbara Thank you for your regard! I look forward to your reaction.

My ESL students and friends who have immigrated mostly seem eager to discover things about this country. The mother of one of my Russian friends seems disinterested in exploring. I think she mainly came here to be with her family. That is often the case. Sometimes they came here only to escape a miserable life, Eventually many seem to gain pleasure, especially if they have support from native residents.

message 17: by Lisa (last edited Feb 04, 2018 06:09PM) (new) - added it

Lisa Vegan Chrissie wrote: "One thing that always confuses me about immigrant stories is the extent to which immigrants fail to feel excited bout learning of a new place and environment. THAT is what I felt when we moved to Sweden, even if the move was not just milk and honey. "

Chrissie, That makes sense what you say, but I think it helps to have had a compelling reason, especially if philosophical and not just desperate economic, to leave one place and eagerness to go to another place, not just as a refugee with few choices. And it helps to be young and know people. It depends on the story, non-fiction or fiction.

I think the young woman in this story, at least in the movie version, does feel enthusiastic about learning about the new place.

Barbara, Yes, I still want to read the book. The nuances you mention in the book that aren't in the movie is one reason why books tend to be superior to movies made from them. Thanks for this review.

message 18: by Chrissie (last edited Feb 05, 2018 12:23AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Chrissie Barbara and Lisa,of course economic conditions are important. But you know when my father and family moved he had no job and he had to build everything up from start. Everything. I think lot is a question of attitude. I do admire what he accomplished. Most of all I am happy I was imbued with the attitude that you make of your life what you want of it. Pick where you want to live and work your butt off to make it a success. Generally I think people should invest their energy in working rather than complaining and complaining bout what they miss. You make choices and you must live with the choices made.

Barbara, do you still think I will like the book with my hard-nosed attitude.

message 19: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Vegan Chrissie, I think you will like this story. The main character does work hard and does work hard to make things work for herself.

Chrissie OK, Lisa, I will try it. It is on my wishlist now. Thanks to both of you.

message 21: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Vegan Chrissie wrote: "OK, Lisa, I will try it. It is on my wishlist now. Thanks to both of you."

Chrissie, I can only speak for the movie version but I'm now once again eager to read the book. I'll be very curious what you will think of it if/when you read it.

Chrissie We'll see. I never know what will happen.

Barbara I am pleased that you both found my review encouraging. The determination and hard work that Eilis accomplished was a strong point in the story.
I give the producers of the film much credit in giving us such a fine film, despite my sense that the book was better!

Barbara Thanks everybody for your enthusiasm! As you can see, this was not a recent review!

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